Comments

  1. says

    SC @498 and 499. Ha, this is kind of funny in a way. One of former Trump aide Sam Nunberg’s objections to being questioned by the grand jury is that, “Roger Stone was my mentor.”

    Okay, dude, that’s not a good excuse for refusing to cooperate.

  2. says

    Tur just asked Nunberg if he thinks Mueller might have something on Trump. “I think they may.” “He may very well have [done something illegal].”

    It’s hilarious that Nunberg’s whole thing is about defending Roger Stone from any allegations. Stone’s entire adult life has been spent working as a despicable political operative, from Nixon to Trump. He’s one of the sleaziest and most dishonest people in all of politics.

  3. says

    Matthew Miller: “Genuinely can’t tell whether Nunberg has something to hide or is just colossally stupid. (possibly both)”

    I’ve never heard anything like that interview. Whether or not he personally has anything to hide, I think he gets – especially since his interview with investigators – that Trump, Stone, and others do.

  4. says

    Josh Dawsey’s piece about Nunberg in WaPo – “Former Trump aide Sam Nunberg called before grand jury, says he will refuse to go”:

    Former Trump aide Sam Nunberg said Monday that he has been subpoenaed to appear in front of a federal grand jury investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election but that he will refuse to go.

    In an interview with The Washington Post, Nunberg said he was asked to come to Washington to appear before the grand jury on Friday. He also provided a copy of what appears to be his two-page grand jury subpoena seeking documents related to President Trump and nine other people, including emails, correspondence, invoices, telephone logs, calendars and “records of any kind.”

    Nunberg forwarded an email listed as coming from the office of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III seeking his appearance in front of the panel on Friday.

    Nunberg said he does not plan to comply with the subpoena, including either testimony or providing documents.

    “Let him arrest me,” Nunberg said. “Mr. Mueller should understand I am not going in on Friday.”

    Nunberg said he was planning to go on Bloomberg TV and tear up the subpoena….

  5. says

    Some much needed perspective on the Steele dossier: Christopher Steele was looking into Russian interference in various campaigns long before he wrote about the details of Russian interference in U.S. elections:

    […] Even before Steele became involved in the U.S. Presidential campaign, he was convinced that the Kremlin was interfering in Western elections.

    In April of 2016, not long before he took on the Fusion assignment, he finished a secret investigation, which he called Project Charlemagne, for a private client. It involved a survey of Russian interference in the politics of four members of the European Union—France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Germany—along with Turkey, a candidate for membership.

    The report chronicles persistent, aggressive political interference by the Kremlin: social-media warfare aimed at inflaming fear and prejudice, and “opaque financial support” given to favored politicians in the form of bank loans, gifts, and other kinds of support.

    The report discusses the Kremlin’s entanglement with the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the French right-wing leader Marine Le Pen. (Le Pen and Berlusconi deny having had such ties.) It also suggests that Russian aid was likely given to lesser-known right-wing nationalists in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

    The Kremlin’s long-term aim, the report concludes, was to boost extremist groups and politicians at the expense of Europe’s liberal democracies. The more immediate goal was to “destroy” the E.U., in order to end the punishing economic sanctions that the E.U. and the U.S. had imposed on Russia after its 2014 political and military interference in Ukraine. […]

    Link

  6. says

    Nunberg is now on CNN. Maybe he’s drunk.

    He’s saying they asked about Miss Universe in 2013. He’s talking about Schiller telling him about Emin Agalarov offering to send women to Trump’s hotel room and that Trump refused.

    “Trump may have very well done something during the election with the Russians.”

  7. says

    LOL – Josh Marshall: “Man, this is when your white shoe law firm needs to mobilize its elite tactical assault unit, break into your house or safe house as the case may be, tackle you, take away your cell phone and stick a sock in your mouth.”

  8. says

    Oh, FFS. Trump must have loved that. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, compared Trump to an historically famous Persian king. That is some weapons-grade ass-kissing right there:

    “I want to tell you the Jewish people have a long memory, so we remember the proclamation of the great Cyrus the Great, Persian king, 2500 years ago, he proclaimed that the Jewish exile in Babylon could come back and build our temples in Jerusalem,” said Netanyahu.

    “We [will] remember how you, Donald J. Trump, recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” the Israeli leader declared, linking Trump to Cyrus.

    Netanyahu is currently under investigation on charges of bribery in two separate cases.

  9. says

    A new report from the Wall Street Journal suggests Trump personally coordinated the $130,000 payment that Michael Cohen said he “facilitated” to adult film star Stormy Daniels:

    […] According to the Journal, Cohen missed two deadlines earlier in the month to pay Daniels because he needed to contact Trump and had openly complained to friends after Trump’s win that the president hadn’t reimbursed him for the $130,000, which was used as hush money in return for signing an agreement that barred Daniels from discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.

    Campaign finance experts were already suspicious of the payment when it was first reported in February. […]

    Link

  10. says

    I doubt that this will work, but lots of Republicans are pressuring Trump to drop the idea of creating tariffs on steel and aluminum:

    […] Speaker Paul Ryan has personally spoken with the president and tried to warn him of the economic dangers of entering a trade war as well as the political backlash that could crush Republicans in the mid-terms elections. […]

    One of the top authors of the tax package, Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), has also waded in to try to talk Trump down. He met with Trump at the White House twice last week to discuss other ways of countering China’s overproduction of steel, as lawmakers prefer a narrower approach.

    Brady and trade subcommittee chairman Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) have also drafted a letter to Trump expressing worry about “the prospect of broad, global tariffs on aluminum and steel imports,” said Lauren Aronson, a Ways and Means spokeswoman. […]

    The move comes as the White House prepares to slap a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and 10 percent on imported aluminum as soon as this week. A Saturday tweet by Trump suggested that he might even go beyond that and impose tariffs on European cars.

    […] a new report released Monday by the Trade Partnership Worldwide, a private analytical firm, found that the tariffs would mean sacrificing 180,000 jobs in the broader U.S. economy. Other conservative economists have argued those numbers could reach the millions. […]

    The U.S. Constitution gives Congress jurisdiction over trade, even as lawmakers have ceded some of their authority to the president.

    Congress could try to pass a veto-proof bill to block the tariffs from going into effect. But getting two-thirds of both the House and the Senate to vote for such a measure could be tough, especially because many Rust Belt Democrats, and even some Republicans, favor taking some action against steel imports.

    Another option would be to try include a measure blocking the tariffs in a piece of legislation that Trump feels he must sign, such as a bill to fund the government that Congress needs to pass later this month.

    Link

  11. says

    Trump verbally lashed out at Mexico and Canada … again:

    We have large trade deficits with Mexico and Canada. NAFTA, which is under renegotiation right now, has been a bad deal for U.S.A. Massive relocation of companies & jobs. Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum will only come off if new & fair NAFTA agreement is signed.

    Also, Canada must treat our farmers much better. Highly restrictive. Mexico must do much more on stopping drugs from pouring into the U.S. They have not done what needs to be done. Millions of people addicted and dying.

  12. says

    Trump lied again about DACA and about Democrats looking for legislative solutions.

    It’s March 5th and the Democrats are nowhere to be found on DACA. Gave them 6 months, they just don’t care. Where are they? We are ready to make a deal!

    The Senate almost had a deal in hand last month when a bipartisan measure received 54 votes. It needed 60 votes, but fell short because Hair Furor opposed it.

    Hair Furor’s “deal” was that an agreement on DACA had to include funding to build his beloved, idiotic wall on the southern border; it had to include significant reductions to legal immigration (about a 50% reduction); and other rules regarding sponsored immigration of family members had to be severely restricted. It was not a “deal,” it was a “my way or nothing” bullying tactic.

    How can Hair Furor continue to blame Democrats when it was his thoughtless action in September that ended the DACA program?

  13. blf says

    After uproar over two child sex cases, France to set age of non-consent at 15:

    France plans to make 15 the threshold age of non-consent to sexual relations after a public outcry over two cases of sex involving 11-year-old girls, Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa said Monday.

    [… Currrently,] prosecutors hoping to charge an offender with rape must prove the sex was forced, a more complicated question when pre-teens are involved.

    […]

    Schiappa said she was “very glad” that the government had chosen 15, as recommended by a panel of doctors and legal experts, an age long sought by associations fighting violence against children.

    […]

    I was astonished when I learned that, here in France, the concept of being “too young to be competent to consent” didn’t exist (in law). Whilst, as both Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge and the above-excerpted article point out, in theory an adult having sex with someone younger than 15 is prosecutable, the problem has bee that the way the law is written, it is rape only if violence, threats, &tc, could be proved to have been used. That is precisely what happened recently — twice (both cases involving 11-year-olds) — the prosecution couldn’t prove violence / threats / whatever, so lost the cases (see above-excepted article, and also France mulls new law on sexual consent after men acquitted of raping 11-year-olds (Nov-2017)). By writing into law that it simply is not possible for a person under 15 to provide competent consent, there is no longer a need to prove violence / whatever.

  14. blf says

    Czech protesters inflamed by police role for Communist MP:

    […]
    Thousands of demonstrators brought the centre of Prague to a standstill on Monday night in a display of anger over the appointment of a communist-era riot squad officer to head the Czech parliament’s police watchdog.

    Chanting “communists are murderers” and “we have had enough”, protesters held sheets of paper rolled up to resemble police batons in an expression of indignation over the installation of Zdeněk Ondráček, a Czech Communist party MP, as chair of the parliament’s general inspection of security forces commission.

    The choice of Ondráček to head a sensitive committee overseeing police wrongdoing was confirmed in a parliamentary vote last week despite objections that he had served in a unit that beat up pro-democracy demonstrators in the 1989 Velvet revolution before the fall of communism in what was then Czechoslovakia.

    Monday’s protest coincided with simultaneous demonstrations in 10 other Czech cities and towns […]. Protesters congregating in Prague’s Wenceslas Square […] focused their anger on prime minister Andrej Babiš, who is accused of facilitating Ondráček’s appointment in exchange for the support of 15 Communist party MPs for a government led by his ANO party, which is the biggest grouping in parliament but lacks sufficient numbers to form a majority.

    […]

    Ondraček has been defended by the current Communist party leader, Vojtěch Filip, who said his fellow MP did nothing wrong in fulfilling his police duties to suppress demonstrations.

  15. says

    “They’re trying to set up a perjury case against Roger Stone,” Nunberg says based on the questions he’s been asked.

    Volunteers that Stone might have lied. Says they offered him immunity.

  16. says

    He seems to believe he’s the first person who’s ever done this. He’s not. People have refused to comply in these types of investigations and they’ve gone to jail.

  17. says

    He’s making Stone look a lot more guilty. Maya Wiley (not sure if that’s the right spelling) is doing an admirable job trying to explain how this all works to Nunberg (who’s a lawyer!).

  18. blf says

    The 23 craziest quotes from Sam Nunberg’s absolutely bonkers interview:

    Former Trump campaign official Sam Nunberg thought it was a good idea to a) ignore an apparent subpoena from special counsel Robert Mueller and b) go on CNN and talk all about it.

    The legal soundness of that decision is, um, questionable. […]

    […]

    6. Irregardless of whether or not he had money coming to him during the election, OK, during the general, he won that election and he doesn’t get credit for it.

    Irregardless of your husband being shot, how was the play, Mrs Lincoln?

    I am exaggerating, but not entirely. I mean, the whole question Mueller is investigating is how Russia sought to influence the 2016 election in Trump’s favor and whether anyone in his campaign colluded with them to so it. It’s not about whether Trump won or not.

    […]

    11. I just came around having to spend 80 hours over the weekend, I started this, Gloria[], on Saturday.

    The weekend lasted 72 hours. [and not c.48 ? –blf]

    […]

    14. They ask me to go to the grand jury after I sat there for close to five and a half hours, Gloria, I’m not going back in.

    I think this is my favorite part of Nunberg’s defense for refusing the Mueller subpoena: It takes too long. What Nunberg is saying, essentially, is: This whole grand jury thing is, like, a total time suck. I’m not doing it.

    […]

    22. Let me take this for two seconds, OK?

    This is the BEST. Nunberg, on cable TV to announce he is ignoring a federal subpoena, tries to take a call on the other line. Epic.

    […]

      † The interview was with CNN’s Gloria Borger.

  19. says

    “‘What The F*ck?’ Former Trump Aide Sam Nunberg’s Mueller Meltdown Leaves Friends Petrified”:

    …Rarely, if ever, has a political operative acted so brazenly when facing the very real prospect of being tossed in jail. Nunberg seemed not to care about how the chips would fall. But several of his friends told The Daily Beast they were concerned that he was putting himself in severe legal jeopardy by going on multiple live cable-news programs Monday afternoon.

    They also said that they were worried Nunberg had been drinking prior to dialing in to MSNBC and CNN.

    Starting Monday morning, Nunberg began calling several close associates that he was flatly refusing, at this time, to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Three Nunberg friends said they walked away from those conversations fearful that he was “drinking again” and was about to embark on a personal tailspin. They didn’t know it would play out on daytime TV….

  20. blf says

    John Dean, a former White House counsel to Richard Nixon during Watergate, tweeted Monday that Nunberg can’t flatly refuse to comply with a grand jury subpoena:

    “This is not Mr Nunberg’s decision, and he will be in criminal contempt for refusing to show up. He can take the Fifth Amendment. But he can’t tell the [G]rand Jury to get lost. He’s going to lose this fight.”

    (From Ex-Trump aide defies Mueller probe, says arrest me.)

  21. says

    If he decides to do so, Nunberg can take the Fifth Amendment if answering a question would incriminate him, but I don’t think he can take the Fifth Amendment if he thinks answering would incriminate Roger Stone.

    The idea that Nunberg was drunk for most of the day might be right. I don’t know how many times he told Ari Melber that Roger Stone is his mentor and is like a father to him … lots and lots of repetition of that, as if he had memorized it and it was the one thing sticking in his drunken mind.

    The latest news is that now Nunberg has told the Associated Press that he will probably end up cooperating and testifying to the grand jury. What a farce.

  22. says

    Update on more court decisions regarding Trump’s move to end DACA:

    A federal judge in Maryland on Monday dismissed a challenge to President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

    “This Court does not like the outcome of this case, but is constrained by its constitutionally limited role to the result that it has reached,” Judge Roger Titus said in his opinion. “Hopefully, the Congress and the President will finally get their job done.”

    “An overwhelming percentage of Americans support protections for ‘Dreamers,’ yet it is not the province of the judiciary to provide legislative or executive actions when those entrusted with those responsibilities fail to act,” Titus continued. […]

    “Today’s decision also highlights a serious problem with the disturbing growth in the use of nationwide injunctions, which causes the Maryland court’s correct judgment in favor of the government to be undermined by the overbroad injunctions that have been entered by courts in other states,” Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley said, according to Politico.[…]

    Link

    This back and forth in various courts, and in various cases is getting more and more confusing. The Supreme Court declined to hear arguments.

  23. says

    Saccone is a real jerk.

    “GOP candidate to opioid addict’s mom: ‘We don’t have any more funding, OK?’”:

    Pennsylvania Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone already had his cruelty on display during a debate for the special congressional election. And newly revealed footage posted by American Bridge shows that his lack of empathy extends to victims of the opioid abuse crisis.

    When a mother asked Saccone for help for her opioid-addicted son at a field hearing last March, the lawmaker scolded her. And he brushed her off in truly heartless fashion.

    “People are in my office all day long, I’m sure it’s the same with all my colleagues here, you know, ‘We need more funding, we need more funding,’” Saccone told the woman. “We don’t have any more funding, okay?”

    And he tried to hide behind kids with autism to defend his position.

    “We’re going to try to cut the budget. So, where do I take it from? Do I take it from the autistic children?”

    What makes this exchange particularly galling is that Saccone is an enthusiastic supporter of the $1.5 trillion GOP tax scam. That bill was nothing but a massive giveaway to corporations, billionaires, and Congress itself….

    (The article doesn’t mention that in the video he also goes out of his way to imply that her son’s addiction is his own fault/problem because he didn’t start taking the drugs after an injury.)

  24. says

    Nunberg seems to have decided, after the Wiley/McQuade intervention and speaking with his father and lawyer, that he should probably comply with Mueller’s subpoena after all.

  25. says

    “U.K. Raises Prospect of Sanctions If Russia Poisoned Spy”:

    Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the U.K. will respond “appropriately and robustly” if Moscow is found to be behind the suspected poisoning of a former Russian spy in western England, as he raised the prospect of more sanctions.

    Johnson told lawmakers that Russia is a “malign and disruptive force” as he answered questions after Sergei Skripal, a Russian national convicted in his home country of spying for the U.K., was found critically ill on a bench in the city of Salisbury, western England, on Sunday….

  26. says

    “The Green Party Is Calling for Deportation Protesters’ Terror-Related Charges to Be Dropped”:

    …When a group of activists burst onto the tarmac at Stansted Airport on a cold March night last year and prevented a secretive deportation flight to Nigeria and Ghana from taking off – the first time campaigners have managed to do so – no one knew they would be facing terrorism-related charges a year later.

    The activists, wearing bright pink high-vis jackets, chained to each other with armlocks, lay immobile on the tarmac for over ten hours, unaware of what the consequences would be, but steadfast in the belief that what they were doing was right.

    Ahead of their trial, which begins on the 12th of March, the Green Party is calling on the Crown Prosecution Service to drop the charges against protesters who, if found guilty, could face life imprisonment for protesting against the injustice of deportations from the UK.

    Fifteen activists face the charge of endangering an airport – the first time the act has been used against people taking direct action since the law was passed in 1990, following the Lockerbie bombing – as well as aggravated trespass. The authorities appear to want to send a message to other would-be flight saboteurs: don’t you fucking dare.

    Chartered night-time deportation flights are a central tenet of the government’s “hostile environment” approach to illegal migrants, some of whom have lived in the UK for half a century. In 2016, 1,536 people were expatriated to Albania, Jamaica, Pakistan, Nigeria and Ghana on chartered flights, at an average cost of £5,210 per person.

    It is common for detainees to leave the country in waist restraint belts or leg restraints, and in 2010 a man died after being suffocated to death by three G4S guards who were subsequently found not guilty of manslaughter.

    “This government is snatching our friends, neighbours and colleagues from our communities, incarcerating them without a time limit in remote detention centres, before forcing them onto flights in the middle of the night, sometimes to countries where they don’t know anyone and may face persecution or even death,” says Zak Suffee from End Deportations, one of the groups that organised the action last March. “Deportation flights are brutal, secretive and barely legal, [yet] this is happening in the UK almost every week.”

    The flight sabotaged by activists had been due to send 57 people to Nigeria and Ghana, and as a result of the group’s action 34 people were given a chance to continue their asylum claims. Many of them had ongoing appeals to stay, and some faced serious harm, even death, had the flight been successful….

  27. says

    MSNBC is saying a deal has been reached in the WV teachers’ strike. Great news. You can hear them in the state capitol in the background cheering and singing “Country Roads.”

  28. says

    McKay Coppins on Nunberg:

    After Trump was elected, Nunberg allied himself with Bannon, and became a frequent source of gossip for reporters covering the West Wing. He seemed to enjoy this role, but it wasn’t until Monday that he fully stepped out from behind the scenes—and whatever other reasons he may have had for defying Mueller, he was clearly relishing the attention. One of the first things he said to me when he called was, “I pulled a Roger Stone!”

    He’s so desperate for fame, no matter how fleeting or how foolish and frightened he appears, that he’s willing to put himself in legal jeopardy, anger a federal prosecutor, and publicly incriminate his friends. It’s another example of how the people in Trump’s circle represent extreme cases of our culture’s pathologies.

  29. says

    Trump lied about a phone call from North Korea. There was no such phone call.

    […] it seemed quite important over the weekend when the American president told reporters, practically as an aside, that North Korean officials recently called U.S. officials to discuss diplomatic engagement. “Now we’re talking,” Trump said, referring to North Korea. “They, by the way, called up a couple of days ago; they said, ‘We would like to talk.’ And I said, ‘So would we, but you have to de-nuke.'”

    And while that seemed like an important breakthrough, it now appears the conversation Trump described never occurred.

    The White House said Monday that Donald Trump had been referring to a call with South Korea’s leader when he appeared to suggest a landmark direct contact with the nuclear North. […]

    A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that Trump had in fact been referencing a call he had on Thursday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Link

    At the risk of sounding picky, there’s a big difference between the two countries. One is an ally, one isn’t. A phone call from one is routine; a phone call from the other is important.

    This isn’t the kind of mistake an American president should make casually when describing a tense national security situation. […]

    Link

    In the past, Trump has talked about phone calls that never occurred with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, with the head honcho of the Boy Scouts, and even with the fictional leader of a fictional country (a nation that Trump claimed had a population of 300 million people, and whose leader supposedly complained to Trump about a 9% GDP growth rate —the Washington Post debunked that lie at the time).

    I can figure out why Trump fantasizes about phone calls that don’t exist, but I can’t figure out why he would then transfer those fictional phone calls to the real world and tell us about them. Trump is a broken man.

  30. says

    JUST IN: Treasury Secretary Mnuchin announces Trump admin. will sanction Russia over election meddling.

    ‘I expect in the next several weeks we will be moving forward with sanctions on Russia as a result of the act’.”

    They’re required by law to do this. They’ve already missed several deadlines and ignored the work done on this by Treasury officials, and now they’re making vague promises about “expecting” to be “moving forward” at some unspecified time “in the next several weeks.”

  31. says

    Trump used Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to unilaterally announce tariffs on steel and aluminum. That section of the Trade Expansion Act allows the president to take actions that protect strategically vital industries. It’s a national security issue.

    […] There is no explicit statutory requirement that the president’s invocation of this authority not be total nonsense […]

    […] the US doesn’t import all that much steel, and the Pentagon says its total needs only come to about 3 percent of total domestic production. So there’s no risk that being cut off by our suppliers would make military production impossible. [There is no national security issue.]

    But it gets sillier (with Trump it always does) because America’s biggest foreign supplier of steel is Canada. That’s followed by Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, Turkey, the European Union, and Japan (then comes Russia). Defense Secretary James Mattis sensibly suggested that we might consider exempting our close allies from the tariffs to avoid creating a ridiculous diplomatic incident, but Trump blocked that idea because exempting allies would make the policy economically meaningless.

    Trump’s analysis of the economics is correct. But that’s just another way of saying that the vast preponderance of the steel America imports comes from allies, so the national security case is nonsense. The whole thing is a failure on every level. […]

    Link

  32. blf says

    One area where France is decidedly bad is prison, with French prisons being among the most notorious in Europe — extremely overcrowded, violent, understaffed, and so on, being (as far as I know) essentially just warehouses to lock away offenders. The incarceration rate (for mainland France) is c.100 per 100,000 (the US rate is over 600). A proposal to deal with at least some of the problems will soon be announced, Macron calls for more cells, fewer inmates in France penal reform plan:

    France will build thousands of new jail cells and use electronic tagging more widely under reforms being pursued by President Emmanuel Macron to remedy some of the worst prison overcrowding in Europe and protests by wardens over violence.

    France’s prison population of 69,000 is the fifth-largest in Europe, after Russia, Turkey, Poland and Britain […].

    But French jails are more overcrowded than those in Britain, with an average 115 inmates per 100 places. […]

    [Macron will promise] to build 10,000–15,000 new cells to tackle overcrowding and to […] find outside-of-prison alternatives for lesser offenders.

    Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said this could mean less serious offenders remain outside prison on community service, or have their freedom of movement curbed and controlled by electronic tagging […].

    Griveaux said about one in three prisoners are behind bars for less than a year some of whom could benefit from alternatives to incarceration.

    “For many of these people, going to prison is the best way to ensure they become repeat offenders,” he told RMC radio.

    […]

  33. says

    SC @60, that office was right to flag Kellyanne Conway for that violation. Trump is the guy who decides the punishment, if any. So this decision goes to Trump, and then he does nothing with it I’m betting.

  34. blf says

    Linda Sarsour is a “former executive director of the Arab American Association of New York”, and “a co-chair of the 2017 Women’s March”. She and others have been arrested, Linda Sarsour arrested at Paul Ryan’s office:

    Muslim-American leaders have been arrested at the US Capitol while urging Congress to stand against President Donald Trump’s effort to end a programme that protects certain young immigrants.

    Omar Suleiman, Dawud Walid, Mujahid Fletcher, Talib Shareef and Nihad Awad of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Zahra Billoo, and Linda Sarsour advocated immigration reform before getting arrested on Monday.

    The protesters participated in an act of civil disobedience at the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, demanding that he meet them to hear their concerns.

    […]

    The Al Jazeera article is currently not much more than the above excerpt.

    At the moment, there doesn’t seem to be any more information. An admittedly trivial search only finds a load of wingnut sites with spittle-flecking frothing that Ms Sarsour is, e.g, a sharia-supporter.

  35. blf says

    Nepotism and corruption: the handmaidens of Trump’s presidency [sic]:

    […]
    Having Jared [Kushner] and his wife, Ivanka, Trump’s daughter, working in the White House is a case study of nepotism gone nuts. The president says the public should be reassured because neither of them is paid a dime, but the idea that their free service [sic] to the country somehow sanitizes the corruption of having them in high official jobs is nonsense. They serve without any accountability, except to pater familias.

    Nepotism and corruption are the handmaidens of the Trump presidency [sic]. This should not be surprising. They are the two pillars of many family-run businesses and twin engines of power and profit. Before becoming president [sic], Trump’s only experience was running his family’s real estate business, with his sons and daughter at his side. This is the only model he knows, but it’s a disastrous one for running a government.

    […]

    We’ve seen this same playbook before — in places like Uganda, the Philippines and other countries where rulers and their families loot the public. […]

  36. says

    Update (especially to #s 33 and 49):

    …In a brief interview Tuesday with The Washington Post, Nunberg said he plans to comply with Mueller’s subpoena — part of the special counsel’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election — and had changed his mind after receiving public and unsolicited advice from Maya Wiley, a lawyer with whom he appeared on Ari Melber’s MSNBC show Monday evening.

    “She’s very, very smart,” Nunberg said, referring to Wiley, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s former chief counsel. “She made a compelling case to me, and the case was that they have to do this for their investigation, and it was a fair point.”

    Told that Nunberg said Wiley was the reason he had changed his mind, the lawyer laughed, and said she was happy that he seemed to be following better legal advice now.

    “If it encouraged him to go to speak to his attorney, I am happy we prevailed upon him a more rational path,” Wiley said. “I did not think it was going to be a therapy session, but I think it became a therapy session.”…

  37. says

    “Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen Received Inside Info From Russia Probe”:

    On Dec. 19, 2017, a former staffer for Sen. John McCain named David Kramer testified before the House intelligence committee behind closed doors. He’d played a role in bringing the salacious and unverified Steele dossier to the FBI’s attention, and members peppered him with questions about it.

    Then something unusual happened.

    The following, based on conversations with multiple sources familiar with the matter, illuminates the extraordinary breakdown of trust between committee investigators and the witnesses they call. It also suggests that some people working on the committee investigation may be trying to covertly assist one of the president’s closest allies—when the president’s inner circle is ostensibly a focus of their probe.

    A few days after Kramer’s testimony, his lawyer, Larry Robbins, got a strange call. The call was from Stephen Ryan, a lawyer who represents Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen. Cohen is facing scrutiny from Special Counsel Robert Mueller and congressional investigators regarding potential coordination between Trump’s team and the Kremlin. He featured prominently in the Steele dossier—the document that Kramer handled—and is currently suing Buzzfeed for publishing it.

    Ryan told Robbins he reached out because someone from the House told him that Robbins’ client, Kramer, had information about the Steele dossier that could help Cohen.

    Robbins declined to help. Ryan then asked Robbins not to tell the House intelligence committee about their conversation.

    Robbins told the committee anyway. CNN reported in February that Robbins wrote a letter to the committee complaining about leaks to another client’s lawyer. The Daily Beast can now confirm that this letter was regarding Stephen Ryan and Michael Cohen….

  38. blf says

    Elizabeth Warren attacks ‘dangerous, wrong’ bill to relax rules on US banks:

    […]
    Congress has forgotten the “devastating impact of the financial crisis”, Senator Elizabeth Warren said on Tuesday as Republicans moved closer to relaxing banking regulations implemented after the financial crash of 2008.

    A vote of 67-32, with support from Democrats facing tough midterm elections, allowed the Senate to begin debating a bill that would scale back some of the 2010 laws, known as Dodd-Frank, meant to prevent future abuses in the financial system.

    Republican leaders said the bill would boost small banks and businesses. Senior Democrats said it was an attempt to deregulate big banks that caused the 2008 crash, inviting similar disaster.

    […]

    Warren said the Senate bill contained a change to wording that would allow the biggest banks to pressure the Federal Reserve. The language in the bill now says the Fed shall tailor the rules for the biggest banks, instead of may.

    “That one word change will allow the banks to sue the Fed if they don’t weaken the rules the way the banks want,” Warren said. “And that pressure on the Fed will lead to a systematic weakening of the rules for all the big banks.

    “This may be the single most dangerous provision in the bill and it applies only to the biggest Wall Street banks.”

    Analysis of the Senate bill by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), released on Monday night, found it would increase the likelihood of a taxpayer-funded bailout of failed banks.

    […]

    She had a dozen amendments “ready to go”, she said, including one to impose mandatory penalties on companies like Equifax when they lose consumer data and one to prohibit employers from requesting credit reports as part of job applications.

    […]

    As one of the readers points out, “This is not forgotten by the GOP, rather it is the GOP scheming the time to drop this into legislation […]”.

  39. says

    (By the way, rote phrases like “the salacious and unverified Steele dossier” are tired and irritating, particularly the day after Jane Mayer’s profile is published.)

  40. says

    SC @66, Oh, FFS. The Trump administration always goes farther into Corrupt Town than I initially imagine. Kellyanne was obviously encouraging people to vote for Roy Moore.

    In other news, Conor Lamb now has a narrow lead over Republican Rick Saccone in Pennsylvania, 48% to 45%. See SC’s comment 48.

  41. says

    blf @70:

    Warren said the Senate bill contained a change to wording that would allow the biggest banks to pressure the Federal Reserve. The language in the bill now says the Fed shall tailor the rules for the biggest banks, instead of may.

    “That one word change will allow the banks to sue the Fed if they don’t weaken the rules the way the banks want,” Warren said. “And that pressure on the Fed will lead to a systematic weakening of the rules for all the big banks.

    “This may be the single most dangerous provision in the bill and it applies only to the biggest Wall Street banks.”

    That may be the scariest part of the text you quoted. That or the bit about the CBO posting their conclusion that the bill will increase the likelihood of taxpayer-funded bailouts for banks. Sheesh!

  42. says

    Political wrangling in Utah:

    Utah Republicans are so thankful to President Trump for dramatically reducing the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, that they are trying to rename a scenic Utah National Parks Highway the Donald J. Trump Utah National Parks Highway. Democrats says that if the bill reaches the state Senate they will propose an amendment to name the highway’s frontage road the “Stormy Daniels rampway”. […]

    Link

  43. blf says

    The mass murder fetish kooks in Ozland are using the NRA as model, Australian gun lobby invests in rightwing parties in push to weaken reforms:

    […]
    Australian gun lobby groups pumped more than $500,000[] into helping minor rightwing parties win seats in last year’s Queensland state election as part of a growing push to weaken the nation’s strict firearm control laws.

    As Australia’s gun laws are again held up as an example to the US following the Florida school shooting, election disclosures reveal the pro-gun lobby is pumping thousands of dollars into the campaign war chests of parties such as One Nation [Ozland’s nazis] and the Katter Australian party (KAP)[].

    […]

    “The courtship of the gun lobby by political parties is definitely a growing theme,” Sam Lee from Gun Control Australia told the Guardian. “Industry groups, manufacturers, there’s an emerging NRA-style approach to organising which is all about finding new markets and stopping any strengthening of existing laws.”

    [… numerous details …]

    [… F]unding disclosures show the Queensland Shooters Union, an affiliate of the US National Rifle Association, spent $4,200[] on One Nation candidates in key electorates […].

    The strategy appears to be paying dividends. In the lead-up to Saturday’s state election in Tasmania the governing Liberal party quietly revealed it would introduce measures to weaken gun laws which critics said would breach the National Firearms Agreement signed at the Council of Australian Governments last year.

      † I presume that is Australian (not US) dollars; A$500,000 (AUD) = c.315,000€ (EUR), or c.390,000$ (USD).

      ‡ I’ve never heard of KAP. Judging by the synopsis in Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge, it seems to be a one kook vanity party.

  44. says

    Richard Spencer is a white nationalist. Recently, he is losing support in several ways.

    […] Spencer’s longtime friend and legal champion Kyle Bristow abruptly announced he was quitting politics and cutting ties with his Michigan-based foundation, which branded itself as the “sword and shield” of the white nationalist alt-right. Other ideological allies have criticized Spencer to the press or gone quiet. He’s cut off from key funding sources. And the violent acts that his supporters have committed before and after his college events have given fodder to schools trying to block Spencer’s appearances on the grounds that his events endanger their communities. […]

    “The opposition recognizes that I’m not going anywhere so they’re trying to harass and threaten the people around me,” Spencer said.

    […] Prolonged litigation with the university [Michigan State University], which Bristow fought on Spencer’s behalf, resulted in a mediation agreement that required Spencer to schedule his speech over spring break, at the Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education, a farmyard barn a mile off of campus. A number of neo-Nazis and anti-fascist activists were arrested outside the venue after violent clashes with each other and with police dressed in riot gear.

    Inside the building, however, the mood was sedate. Under 50 people turned out to listen to Spencer’s remarks about the need to create a white ethno-state and repatriate immigrants back to their native countries. […]

    Link

    Yeah, Spencer should be isolated.

  45. says

    The ban on importing elephant trophies has been lifted. Not good.

    After the Trump administration announced last year that it would be undoing an Obama administration ban on importing elephant trophies, a decision that may or may not have been grounded in Uday and Qusay Trump’s compulsive need to shoot at things, public outcry was so severe that Trump was forced to reverse himself.

    It turns out that was only a temporary reversal. Now that the news cycle has moved on, the ban on importing the detached corpse parts of African elephants has been lifted after all.

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has quietly begun allowing more trophy hunting of African elephants, despite President Donald Trump’s pledge last year to uphold a ban on importing parts of animals killed by big-game hunters.

    The agency issued a formal memo Thursday saying it would consider issuing permits to import elephant trophies from African nations on a “case-by-case” basis, effective immediately. The new guidelines, first reported by The Hill, end U.S. bans on the import of such trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia.

    The immediate pretext for the decision is a court finding that although the import ban was warranted by the evidence, the Obama administration did not invite sufficient public comment before banning those imports.

    Rather than seek that public comment now the Ryan Zinke-led Department of the Interior has, at least as of this moment, scrapped the ban in favor of this new “case-by-case” curiosity. And the agency has not made public just what criteria will be used in these “case-by-case” decisions. […]

    Link

    Warning: the text at the link is accompanied by a photo of Donald Junior holding the severed tail of an elephant.

    Elephants are an endangered species. Trump received praise for keeping the ban against imports in place, but now his administration has effectively reversed the ban. The “case-by-case” phrase is a thin veil for allowing people like Donald Junior to decorate their living spaces with elephant parts.

    As the Republican Party promotes the killing of the inspiration for their mascot, maybe their brand will suffer.

  46. says

    SC @77, it’ll be lawyers all the way down.

    In other news, the Nebraska Farm Bureau has something to say to Trump:

    It has been very well documented that your historic path to the White House came directly through rural America. While your thoughts on trade where well known by farmers and ranchers, it would be very dangerous to assume it was the focus of their support. Mr. President, please do not turn your back on the farm and ranch families who depend on international markets and who rely on you to make wise decisions that don’t put their economic future in jeopardy.

  47. says

    Great video of Trump’s name being removed from the hotel in Panama. Unceremonious use of a hammer and a small crowbar by a workman made quick work of it.

    That was enjoyable. I’m actually a little jealous of the workman.

  48. blf says

    This is a breaking story, so very few details at the moment, Ben Carson accused of ‘witch-hunt’ by senior member of his department:

    […]
    For the second time in a week, a senior official in the Department of Housing and Urban Development has blasted secretary Ben Carson, this time accusing him of a political “witch-hunt” within the department aimed at certain career bureaucrats.

    In a letter to Carson that was shared with the Guardian, Hud’s director of records management, Marcus Smallwood, accuses senior officials of operating the department in a climate of fear and harassment, especially since one official, Helen Foster, went public with allegations that Carson had directed a lavish office redesign with taxpayer dollars last week.

    “Helen Foster is not the only person at Hud that has been persecuted in this witch-hunt under your watch,” Smallwood wrote. “She is the only person who has been brave enough to stand on principle and put her career, reputation, and livelihood on the line. The rest of us have operated in fear.”

    […]

  49. blf says

    Getting it right: the best reporting on white supremacists and neo-Nazis:

    Media coverage of white supremacist groups has faced severe criticism but the past year has seen some exemplary reporting
    […]
    ● Richard Spencer’s white-nationalist nonprofit failed to file basic paperwork to keep fundraising, Los Angeles Times, 2017

    White nationalist Richard Spencer was soliciting tax-exempt donations to support his advocacy for a white ethno-state. But he wasn’t filing the paperwork correctly. Over the course of a year, the Los Angeles Times repeatedly scrutinized his nonprofit’s compliance with tax regulations, finding that the IRS had stripped Spencer’s organization’s tax-exempt status for paperwork failures, and that the organization had broken Virginia nonprofit law. Can I just hire you to do this for me? Richard Spencer asked the Los Angeles Times reporter investigating his compliance with nonprofit tax rules. The answer: No.

    There are synopses of other stories at the Grauniad’s link; I only excerpted the one I found most amusing.

  50. says

    Trump’s Muslim ban in action: new data showing it is distressingly effective:

    […] Of the more than 8,400 people who applied for U.S. visas from countries listed in President Donald Trump’s latest version of the Muslim ban, only about 100 individuals were granted waivers, Reuters reported Tuesday.

    The news stands in stark contrast to the Trump administration’s boasting of “a robust waiver provision” that would allow exceptions to the ban affecting all nationals of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, six of which have Muslim-majority populations. […]

    The data states that, as of Feb. 15, only two individuals had their waivers approved, but according to a State Department statement issued to Reuters on Tuesday, 100 additional waivers have since been issued, or fewer than one percent of all visa applicants.

    Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) in January requested information from the State and Homeland Security Departments about the waivers upon receiving “reports of the near uniform denial of waivers for visas,” they wrote in a letter to the agencies […]

    “The Trump administration claims that the waiver system can be used by people who pose no threat to our country … But these facts show that system is a farce designed to hide President Trump’s true purpose,” Van Hollen said […]

    Trump signed the most recent ban in September 2017, following two earlier versions that were challenged in court. On its face, the new ban seemed not as broad in scope, thanks to the executive order’s provision that waivers would be issued on a case-by-case basis. But the new State Department data proves that much of the intent is still the same. […]

    Link

  51. says

    The Trump Organization decided not to break the law this time.

    The Trump Organization said Tuesday that it has removed the presidential seal from tee markers at one of its golf courses after reports that the products may have violated federal law. […]

    It was reported Monday by ProPublica that Eagle Sign and Design, a design and metalworking company, had filled an order for “Trump International” for dozens of tee markers featuring the seal for use at Trump golf courses.

    The use of the presidential seal for purposes other than government business is a violation of federal law punishable by fines or up to six months in prison.

    A spokesman for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told ABC News that the use of the seal would still be illegal, even if it were temporary.

    “There does not appear to be any legal interpretation that says it’s okay to violate the law if it’s only for a holiday weekend,” Jordan Libowitz said in a statement. “If anything, it raises more questions as to whether they knew they were violating the law, so intentionally tried to do it for a short time to see if it would get noticed.”

    Link

  52. blf says

    France takes on sexual harassment with on-the-spot fines:

    Sexual harassment on French streets or in public transport will be punished by a new on-the-spot fine of 90 euros […]
    […]
    The Paris metro has already begun regularly informing riders of round-the-clock emergency numbers to call or text to report incidents.

    [Government spokesman Benjamin] Griveaux admitted it would be difficult for the police to catch harassers red-handed. “But it’s better than nothing,” he said.

    Gender Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa has said she expects the “symbolic value” alone of the new law to have a dissuasive effect.

    Belgium and Portugal are among the other European countries to have introduced penalties for verbal sexual abuse, with mixed results.

    In Belgium, offenders risk up to a year in jail.

    […]

    And, coincidently, First conviction under sexism law for Belgian who insulted officer:

    […]
    A man who verbally abused a female police officer has become the first person to be convicted in Belgium under a law that criminalises sexism in a public place.

    A fine of €3,000 (£2,700) was handed down by a Brussels criminal court over remarks made by a man pulled over by an officer for a violation of the highway code. […]

    The law against sexism in a public place was put on the Belgian statute books in 2014 following an outcry over a documentary that exposed the abuse faced by women on the streets of Brussels.

    Shot with the use of hidden cameras, Femme de la Rue, directed by a film student, Sofie Peeters, offered a stark account of everyday sexism and sexual intimidation in the Belgian capital, including continuous catcalls, wolf whistles, and jeering.

    […]

    Gilles Blondeau, the spokesman of the public prosecutor’s office for the district of Halle Vilvoorde, said: “This is the first time we have used this law to prosecute someone. It is quite common for people arrested by the police to insult and threaten. But to personally blame a policewoman because of her sex is special. It was a good case to test this law: a concrete and very clear case, with many witnesses.”

  53. says

    SC @81:

    That was enjoyable. I’m actually a little jealous of the workman.

    Me too.

    In another nice moment, a billboard is being erected near Mar-a-Lago that calls for Trump’s impeachment.
    Link. Photo at the link.

  54. blf says

    Catholic hierarchy to be confronted over gender inequality:

    […]
    “Powerful vested interests” within the Catholic church are being challenged at a conference in Rome on International Women’s Day [this Thursday, 8-March-2018 –blf] as calls grow for women to be given positions of authority and influence in the church.

    […]

    [… A] magazine article exposed the exploitation of nuns at the Vatican. Headlined “the (nearly) free work of nuns[”], the article revealed dire economic conditions experienced by many nuns, alongside resentment about the low value placed on their vocations compared with men’s.

    Women in religious orders work long hours cooking, cleaning and serving the cardinals, bishops and officials who run the church, it claimed. With nominal or no pay, and no contracts of employment, the nuns are barely acknowledged by the men whose needs they provide for.

    […]

    The exploitation of nuns is likely to be raised at this week’s Rome conference, whose theme is “Why Women Matter”.

    […]

    In previous years, the annual conference has been held at the Vatican, but the organisers switched venues last month after the Holy See refused to give approval to Mary McAleese, a former president of Ireland, and two other speakers.

    No reasons were given, but McAleese has spoken in favour of women’s ordination, which has been ruled out by the pope, and LGBT rights. […]

    […]

    [Chantal Götz, the founder of Voices of Faith] added, as a non-Vatican entity: “Ultimately, we did not see a reason why these women should have to go through an ‘approval process’ by anyone.”

    […]

    Why am I reminded of Harper Valley PTA (video)? And also, unfortunately, tilting at windmills …

  55. says

    Manu Raju:

    After Lewandowski meets w House Intel Thursday, Rs say it’s time to finish the investigation part of probe, focus on writing report. Conaway: “We’re coming toward the end of it.” King: “I don’t see anything else that’s out there that hasn’t been explored.”

    I would suggest that they’d then lose their means by which to sabotage the real investigations, but Nunes will just continue to do that separately. At least they’ll lose access to some witnesses.

    The Republicans have tried to prevent as much evidence and information from being discovered or made public by refusing to interview or follow up with witnesses, denying subpoenas for documents, being absent from interviews, intimidating and threatening witnesses, lying about classified information, attacking government agencies, and so on; but despite their best efforts to obstruct justice we still have the committee to thank for Comey’s public announcement of the Trump-Russia investigation, the Page transcript, the Prince transcript, one of the Simpson transcripts, and the information in the Democratic response to the Nunes memo. Schiff, Swalwell, Speier, Quigley, and others have all been doing the best they can to continue the committee’s work in the face of Republican subversion.

  56. blf says

    The land border between Ireland and N.Ireland has always been identified — at least by those who don’t have their head (and indeed entire body) buried in the sand — as a huge problem for brexit. That border is probably the most open in the (current) EU, there are no barriers or checks (at all (I’ve crossed that border many times, the only thing you notice is a change in currency and road signage)). There used to be, but they were dismantled as part of the Good Friday peace deal. The absence of barriers and checks is considered to an important achievement of the peace deal; paraphrasing (from memory) a recent comment, “You start with a camera on a pole. Soon you must put a fence around the pole. Soon afterwards, you need to patrol the fence.”

    Fintan O’Toole, writing in the Irish Times, takes a closer look at one of the ideas the UK has floating, some sort of an “e-border”, British can’t deliver promises of frictionless trade:

    Recent history shows the UK cannot deliver a smooth and invisible border
    […]
    In 2016, more than 310 million people and nearly 500 million tonnes of freight crossed the UK’s borders. If this continues to happen in a “frictionless” way after Brexit, the disturbances to the status quo in Ireland will be limited. If it doesn’t, hang on to your hats. Frictionless trade is the only condition under which Brexit can happen without inflicting a hard border on Ireland. It is almost certainly a political impossibility if the UK leaves the customs union. But even if it could somehow be agreed in principle, there is another enormous obstacle: the actual capacity of the British to handle it.

    […]

    This forces us to consider something that would previously have been of little interest to Irish people: the recent and dismal history of the UK’s adventures in using digital technology to control its borders. In 2003, the British established a spanking new “e-borders” system which was meant to collect and analyse advance passenger information for people travelling into the UK. It had a generous timescale — the full programme was meant to be in place by 2011. In 2010, the Home Office admitted that e-borders was so useless it had to be abandoned. By then, it had spent £340 million (€380 million) on the programme.

    […]

    In 2015, 55 million UK customs declarations were made by 141,000 traders. Once Brexit happens, that will increase fivefold to 255 million. [… T]his is the vast logistical challenge that will have to be dealt with […]

    This brings us back to the paper on customs the British produced back in August and that [N.Ireland DUP führer Arlene] Foster hailed last Friday as “innovative”. Actually, the words that paper used about its own proposals are “an innovative and untested approach that would take time to develop and implement”, which is management speak for “nobody has done this stuff ever before, we have no evidence that it would work and we have only the vaguest outline ideas about it”. […]

    […]

    The one big idea […] is the “trusted trader” — companies whom the customs authorities get to know and trust to fill out all their own declarations honestly. There is nothing, of course, to stop the UK from using this system right now for trade outside the EU. So I wondered how many “trusted traders” the UK has designated so far. Of the 141,000 companies using its systems, a grand total of 604 are trusted traders. That’s 0.43 per cent. Which prompts an obvious question — if this is such a great solution, why are more than 99 per cent of UK companies not using it? Why are UK authorities not currently taking any steps to promote it?

    The cross-party public accounts committee of the House of Commons put it succinctly in a report in November: “Government departments’ poor track record of delivering critical border programmes, such as e-borders, leaves us sceptical that they are up to the challenges of planning for the border post-Brexit”. If the UK’s own parliament doesn’t believe in the frictionless future, for the rest of us to take it on trust would be bordering on gullibility.

  57. says

    SC @95, another “adult” leaves the White House.

    Already, a meeting of the heads of industries that will be negatively affected by Trump’s tariff on steel and aluminum has been canceled. Does the departure of Cohn leave Trump free to be even more of a protectionist, or more of an economically illiterate president?

  58. blf says

    Lynna@96, “a meeting of the heads of industries that will be negatively affected by Trump’s tariff on steel and aluminum has been canceled.” May I suggest a bit more context here would help? I presume this was to have been a meeting between these mysterious “heads of industries” and some of the dalekocracy in Wacko House, but it also could be, e.g., a meeting amongst themselves to set up yet another cartel. A bit of searching suggests the meeting is(? was?) this one, Cohn Tries to Head Off Trump Tariffs With White House Summit (dated yesterday):

    White House economic adviser Gary Cohn is summoning executives from US companies that depend on aluminum and steel to meet this week with President [sic] Donald Trump in a last-ditch effort to halt steep tariffs announced last week, according to two people familiar with the matter.

    Cohn is arranging for a White House meeting on Thursday that would include representatives of breweries, beverage-can manufacturers and automakers, along with the oil industry. Trump is scheduled to attend the meeting […]

  59. says

    Finally! – “Adviser to Emirates With Ties to Trump Aides Is Cooperating With Special Counsel”:

    An adviser to the United Arab Emirates with ties to current and former aides to President Trump is cooperating with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and gave testimony last week to a grand jury, according to two people familiar with the matter.

    Mr. Mueller appears to be examining the influence of foreign money on Mr. Trump’s political activities and has asked witnesses about the possibility that the adviser, George Nader, funneled money from the Emirates to the president’s political efforts. It is illegal for foreign entities to contribute to campaigns or for Americans to knowingly accept foreign money for political races.

    Mr. Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman who advises Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the effective ruler of the Emirates, also attended a January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles that Mr. Mueller’s investigators have examined. The meeting, convened by the crown prince, brought together a Russian investor close to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia [Kirill Dmitriev] with Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater and an informal adviser to Mr. Trump’s team during the presidential transition, according to three people familiar with the meeting.

    …Mr. Nader, who grew close later to several advisers in the Trump White House, had once worked as a consultant to Blackwater, a private security firm. Mr. Nader introduced his former employer to the Russian.

    Mr. Nader was first served with search warrants and a grand jury subpoena on Jan. 17, shortly after landing at Washington Dulles International Airport, according to two people familiar with the episode. He had intended to travel on to Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s Florida estate, to celebrate the president’s first year in office, but the F.B.I. had other plans, questioning him for more than two hours and seizing his electronics.

    Since then, Mr. Nader has been questioned numerous times about meetings in New York during the transition, the Seychelles meeting and meetings in the White House with two of Mr. Trump’s senior advisers, Jared Kushner and Stephen K. Bannon, who has since left the administration.

    The meeting in the Seychelles also took place against the backdrop of a larger pattern of secretive contacts between the Trump team and both the Russians and the Emiratis….

    Shortly after the Seychelles meeting, Mr. Dmitriev met with Anthony Scaramucci, then an informal Trump adviser, at the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. In an interview afterward with TASS, a Russian news agency, Mr. Scaramucci criticized the Obama administration’s economic sanctions on Russia as ineffective and suggested that the Trump administration and Russia could find common ground on numerous issues.

    For his part, Mr. Dmitriev seemed particularly optimistic at the dawn of the Trump era. In an interview with The New York Times two days after the 2016 election, he said he was excited that Mr. Trump’s dramatic victory would “reshape the U.S.-Russia relationship.”

    “When Russia is treated with respect,” he said, “we can move forward.”

    Much more at the link.

  60. says

    “Stormy Daniels sues Trump, says ‘hush agreement’ invalid because he never signed”:

    Adult film star Stormy Daniels sued Donald Trump Tuesday, alleging that he never signed the nondisclosure agreement that his lawyer had arranged with her.

    The civil suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and obtained by NBC News, alleges that her agreement not to disclose her “intimate” relationship with Trump is not valid because while both Daniels and Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen signed it, Trump never did.

    The suit alleges that Cohen has tried to keep Clifford from talking about the relationship as recently as Feb. 27, 2018.

    “To be clear, the attempts to intimidate Ms. Clifford into silence and ‘shut her up’ in order to ‘protect Mr. Trump’ continue unabated,” says the suit. “On or about February 27, 2018, Mr. Trump’s attorney Mr. Cohen surreptitiously initiated a bogus arbitration proceeding against Ms. Clifford in Los Angeles.” Binding arbitration is specified as a means of dispute resolution.

    The suit also says that Trump must know that Cohen is trying to silence Clifford, since rules for the New York bar, of which Cohen is a member, require him to keep his client informed at all times. “[I]t strains credulity to conclude that Mr. Cohen is acting on his own accord and without the express approval and knowledge of his client Mr. Trump.”

    Clifford had previously given conflicting accounts of her relationship with Trump. In the lawsuit, Clifford alleges that in January 2018, Cohen, “concerned the truth would be disclosed … through intimidation and coercive tactics, forced Ms. Clifford into signing a false statement wherein she stated that reports of her relationship with Mr. Trump were false.”

  61. says

    Here’s the Intercept article about the Seychelles meeting I linked to back in November. I still don’t know whether this detail

    During the same period in January when Dmitriev and Prince were in the Seychelles, Alexander Mashkevich, a Kazakh businessman linked to a shady Trump investment vehicle known as Bayrock, also arrived to meet with Zayed, who was “holding court” at his mansion on the island, a source familiar with the meetings said. Abdulrahman Khalid bin Mahfouz, a Saudi billionaire whose grandfather founded the first Saudi private bank and whose father allegedly helped Al Qaeda, was also present. The meetings came several weeks after Zayed flew to New York to meet with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, former chief strategist Steve Bannon, and Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser who is now a subject in the federal Russia probe.

    or the fact that Dmitriev’s plane was “Turkish-owned” have any significance (or really what “Turkish-owned” means here).

  62. says

    “MI5 believes Russians tried to kill former spy Sergei Skripal”:

    The suspected poisoning of a former Kremlin double agent and his daughter is being treated as an assassination attempt linked to Russia, Whitehall sources said last night.

    Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, remained critically ill in hospital yesterday after being exposed to an unknown substance and collapsing at a shopping centre in Salisbury on Sunday. Counterterrorism detectives from Scotland Yard have taken over the inquiry from Wiltshire police and Amber Rudd, the home secretary, will chair a meeting of the Cobra crisis committee today.

    Sources said that early indications pointed to a state-sponsored assassination attempt and it was being treated as such by police and MI5. Alternative theories — such as a rival faction wanting to frame Russia and undermine President Putin’s regime, or a personal dispute — have not been ruled out.

    The Times has also been told that the deaths of Mr Skripal’s wife, Liudmila, from cancer in 2012 and his son, Alexander, 44, last year in St Petersburg, will be considered as part of the Metropolitan Police investigation. Yulia is thought to have travelled to Wiltshire from her home in Moscow last week to support her father on what would have been Alexander’s birthday on March 1.

    The developments increased pressure on Theresa May to be ready to take on Mr Putin….

    Meanwhile, the home affairs committee has asked for a review into 14 deaths that have not been treated as suspicious by British police but have been identified as potentially linked to Russia….

  63. says

    Update to several earlier comments:

    “Tories seek to block move to reveal donations to DUP in EU referendum”:

    Ministers will whip Conservative MPs to block a move to reveal donations to the DUP during the EU referendum, which Labour has said is “doing the party’s dirty work”.

    The government is set to help the Northern Irish party conceal details of past political donations, including a highly controversial sum given during the referendum, despite a 2014 law that extended party transparency rules to Northern Ireland.

    The rules on transparency were to bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK, which first introduced in legislation in 2014 with the wide understanding it would be applied from that year.

    However, the government has since said the transparency rules will apply from 1 July 2017, which would mean donations during the EU referendum in 2016 will not be made public.

    “The Tories must explain why they are doing the DUP’s dirty work by helping them avoid publishing the source of the funds received in the EU referendum. Those funds played a significant part in the referendum campaign across the UK and the public have a right to know precisely where that money came from.” [Owen Smith]

    A Labour source said: “The government tried to pull a fast one and got their minister to sit down early so they could vote on the SIs last night rather than deferred on Wednesday. We stopped it but it’s very unusual and shows the nervousness on this, especially the NI political donations.”

    Here’s more on the shady DUP funding. I don’t know what time this vote is or exactly how it works (“Conservative MPs are under a three-line whip to oppose”?), but it’s today.

  64. says

    “Russian Influence Campaign Extracted Americans’ Personal Data”:

    …The fake directory is one example of the elaborate schemes that Russian “trolls” have pursued to try to collect personal and business information from Americans, the Journal has found. Leveraging social media, Russians have collected data by peddling niche business directories, convincing activists to sign petitions and bankrolling self-defense training classes in return for student information.

    It isn’t clear for what purpose the data were collected, but intelligence and cybersecurity experts say it could be used for identity theft or leveraged as part of a wider political-influence effort that didn’t end with the 2016 election….

    A spokesman for Facebook Inc., which also owns Instagram, said the company allows users to find out whether they have “liked” or “followed” any Russia-backed accounts through an online tool.. However, the tool doesn’t notify users who exchanged messages with or turned over information to the accounts….

    Pretty incredible:

    …Multiple Russian accounts reached out to Orlando, Fla., fitness instructor Maurice Bright in early 2017 with enticing offers: work with them to build his fledgling business.

    While Black4Black offered Mr. Bright free promotion in its business directory, a group claiming to be an activist organization, using the Instagram account BlackFist, paid Mr. Bright to teach self-defense lessons in his community. In exchange, it wanted information about the people who showed up for classes, including phone numbers, email addresses and even videos.

    “They were really adamant about getting names,” Mr. Bright said.

    He gave BlackFist videos and photos but said he stopped short of sending attendees’ contact information. He quit working with the group after it asked him to provide more “aggressive” lessons, including training in offensive combat.

    In all, he said he made roughly $700 teaching 12 classes in a local park. BlackFist paid him using a PayPal account connected to the Russia-backed BlackMattersUS, the Journal found. The same account, which PayPal has shut down, is listed as fraudulent in the special counsel’s indictment.

    Trainers across the country were contacted by BlackFist with a similar offer, according to interviews, Instagram posts and event listings….

  65. says

    Like I said @ #91 a few hours before the NYT article was published, the Prince congressional testimony transcript, despite the arrogance and contempt with which he greeted the process and the institution (or maybe because of that arrogance and contempt), will prove useful.

  66. says

    “Trump Plans to Blame Video Games for Gun Violence”:

    President Donald Trump’s stated response to a mass shooting at a Florida high school last month was initially broad in scope. But in recent days, he and his aides have begun slimming down their ambitions, with a particular focus now on shifting more blame onto video games.

    On Thursday, the White House is planning to meet with envoys of the video game industry to discuss how violent imagery on their platforms may desensitize young people to firearms—and even train them to be more effective killers. Industry sources tell The Daily Beast that they are worried the session will be an ambush—an effort to scapegoat them for shootings in schools.

    Knowledgeable sources says that the Trump White House has scrambled to cobble together some semblance of a serious policy meeting….

    Among the video game industry and its allies, frustration and fears have grown as the disorder became clearer. In particular, there is concern that the White House will insist on cameras being allowed to broadcast from the session so that the president could create a video-ready culture-war moment on the causes of school shootings.

    Words such as “pointless,” “stunt,” and “dog and pony show” were regularly thrown around during tense exchanges involving video-game industry reps and administration officials over the past week. Industry and administration sources conceded that whatever meeting happens on Thursday, it is unlikely to yield concrete, effective policy or legislative measures. Gun control groups themselves framed the session as largely superficial to the larger debate.

    As Feinblatt noted, the link between video games and gun violence has little empirical basis, as studies have repeatedly shown. And the planned White House meeting, the gaming industry worries, appears to be a way to shift a national conversation on gun violence away from gun control measures anathema to Trump’s conservative base and onto an industry with far less political clout in the administration….

  67. says

    Trump put Director of National Economic Council Gary Cohn on the spot, (in a way), hours before Cohn resigned. It sounds like Trump backed Cohn into a corner and didn’t leave him a way out other than resigning.

    […] According to two people familiar with the matter who spoke to Bloomberg, Cohn would not agree to fully support Trump’s new proposals. The White House announced his resignation just hours later.

    During the Oval Office meeting Tuesday, Trump asked for an update on the legal paperwork associated with making the tariffs –a 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent on aluminum — official. He also discussed the timing of when he could sign the new order and asked everyone in the room if they were “all on the same team,” according to Bloomberg’s reporting.

    Trump reportedly asked Cohn specifically if he was going to be supportive of the tariffs and Cohn didn’t answer, according to the sources who spoke with Bloomberg. One person familiar with Cohn told Bloomberg that Trump did not demand loyalty during the meeting. That person said also that Cohn is actually supportive of tough tariffs on China, but not against Canada, Mexico or the European Union, according to Bloomberg. […]

    Link

    “One person familiar with Cohn told Bloomberg that Trump did not demand loyalty during the meeting.” I disagree with that characterization. It sounds like a loyalty test to me.

  68. says

    When Trump continues to insist that “other countries” may have been involved in meddling in U.S. elections, (which Trump did again just yesterday), he is right in one way. Other countries may have illegally curried favor with the Trump campaign, but not in the Russian manner. That’s what the cooperation of George Nader with Special Counsel Robert Mueller is likely to prove.

    See SC’s comment 98.

    Trump’s inclusion of “other countries” is his way of diluting the charges against Russia for election interference, but this investigation of Trump family ties with the United Arab Emirates looks likely to reveal a different kind of election interference.

    Trump, Jared Kushner, and Eric Prince may all have committed illegal acts in dealing with the UAE through Nader. Also, it strikes me as significant that Nader met at the White House numerous times with Kushner and Bannon.

  69. says

    I’d like to take a moment to discuss the people the RNC put in charge of its finances.

    Until recently their national finance chair was one Steve Wynn. Last year, Wynn convinced Trump to deport a Chinese dissident in the US to China in order to benefit his Macau casino business:

    …Guo has filed an application for political asylum in the US, which is pending. But according to the Journal’s account, Trump called for Guo’s deportation in a discussion on policy towards China, describing him as a “criminal” at an Oval Office policy meeting in June, on the basis of a letter from Beijing accusing him of serious crimes.

    The report said the letter had been hand-delivered to him at a private dinner by Steve Wynn, a Las Vegas casino magnate and Republican National Committee finance chairman with interests in the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau, for which Wynn relies on Beijing for licensing.

    The Journal report said that aides tried to persuade Trump out of going ahead with Guo’s deportation, noting he was a member of the president’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. The aides later ensured that the deportation would not go ahead.

    The RNC evidently had no problem with this, and Wynn remained in his position until quite some time after allegations of decades of sexual harassment and rape, for which he’s now under investigation, became public. After haranguing Democrats to return Harvey Weinstein’s donations, the RNC is keeping Wynn’s.

    One deputy finance chair is Trump’s henchman Michael Cohen, who has a long history of threats and intimidation, is at the center of the Stormy Daniels scheme, and is under investigation in the Mueller probe.

    Another deputy finance chair is Elliott Broidy. Broidy pleaded guilty to bribery charges in New York in 2009 (the plea was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor after he turned on the people he bribed and agreed to pay back a portion of his ill-gotten gains). In recent days it’s been revealed that Broidy and his wife were angling to receive tens of millions in exchange for getting the DoJ to drop a massive embezzlement case involving the prime minister of Malaysia.

    Broidy is also linked to the operation involving cooperating witness George Nader (see #98 above):

    …In one example of Mr. Nader’s influential connections, which has not been previously reported, last fall he received a detailed report from a top Trump fund-raiser, Elliott Broidy, about a private meeting with the president in the Oval Office.

    Mr. Broidy owns a private security company with hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts with the United Arab Emirates, and he extolled to Mr. Trump a paramilitary force that his company was developing for the country. He also lobbied the president to meet privately “in an informal setting” with the Emirates’ military commander and de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan; to back the U.A.E.’s hawkish policies in the region; and to fire Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson….

    As described at the links @ #468 in the previous iteration, he has more shady connections in Romania, and appears to have been involved in some sort of pension-fund scheme that also had links to Trump and Kushner. The same company involved in the pension thing, CIM, bailed out not only the Trump family but their Russian partners in Trump SoHo when they fell behind on their loans. (Angry Trump SoHo buyers were suing them for fraud – this was the case in which the DA Cy Vance had emails between Ivanka and Jr. openly describing lying to buyers and the public, but let the case drop after totally coincidentally receiving a campaign donation from another Trump lawyer-thug, Marc Kasowitz.)

    Broidy also led the advisory board of a national security (!) nonprofit funded at least in part with money from Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs laundered by Rick Gates (see #471 of the previous iteration).

    Meanwhile, the RNC is paying Trump’s loyal bodyguard Keith Schiller an obvious $15,000/month “site selection consulting” sinecure (see #23 of the previous iteration). After it became public that they were paying Trump’s and Jr.’s legal fees, they stopped those payments and immediately started paying $37,000/month in rent to Trump Tower for the Trump campaign (see #144 of the previous iteration). And they’re holding numerous events at Trump properties.

  70. says

    Update to #105 above: “Govt win votes to block the publication of the source of a £425k donation in the EU Refrendum campaign against the advice of the Electoral Commission and dramatically increase passport prices:

    Transparency -Ayes: 308 Noes 261

    Passports – Ayes: 317 Noes: 258”

  71. says

    Quite an article – “How a Russian-Linked Shell Company Hired An Ex-Trump Aide to Boost Albania’s Right-Wing Party in DC”:

    A former Trump campaign aide working as a lobbyist, a half-million-dollar payment, a conservative Albanian political party, four Republican congressmen, Breitbart News, a kosher restaurateur in New York City, an online dating service that promotes “beautiful” Ukrainian women, and Russian-linked shell companies—these are some of the elements in a bizarre tale of influence-peddling that spurs the suspicion that Russians covertly used Republicans in Washington in an effort to foment political conflict in the Balkans.

    It’s a complicated story of international political skullduggery with a dizzying plot: A year ago, a sketchy Scottish firm called Biniatta Trade, which was formed by two Belize-based shell companies, paid a Republican lobbyist and former Trump campaign aide named Nick Muzin for work in the United States to help the Democratic Party of Albania. At the time, a parliamentary election was underway, and the right-wing DPA was challenging a government run by the Socialist Party. That government was led by Prime Minister Edi Rama, who was steering Albania into the European Union and warning of the rise of Russian influence in the Balkans. Coincidentally—or not—the two Belizean shell companies behind Biniatta Trade were both connected to firms controlled by Russians.

    The bottom line: It appears that Russian-related entities secretly meddled in the United States in order to meddle in an election in Albania.

    The purpose of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which was passed in 1938 to counter Nazi propaganda, was to make sure that lobbyists for overseas governments and entities provide information that allows Americans to know what foreign players are doing within the United States to influence the US government and public. In this curious case, the documents submitted to the Justice Department stir more questions than they answer. The big one: Who financed Muzin’s effort in the United States to help the Democratic Party of Albania? The available evidence suggests a troubling scenario: Russian-connected outfits clandestinely messed about in Washington in order to pursue a covert agenda in Albania.

    The US intelligence community last year concluded that Putin intervened in the 2016 election with hack-and-dump operations and other underhanded and illegal measures. Mueller recently issued an indictment of 13 Russian nationals that described how Moscow waged a secret propaganda campaign to affect the election and help Trump via social media. The Biniatta Trade-Albania caper is a possible warning that Russian undercover political warfare might go even deeper.

  72. says

    “Sergei Skripal believed to have been poisoned with nerve agent”:

    Investigators believe a nerve agent was used to poison the former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury on Sunday.

    It is believed to have been a deliberate act and the two victims are still critically ill in hospital.

    The medical and chemical evidence and the effects on the victims point to a nerve agent. Sources would not discuss which one. The best known are VX and sarin.

    Although further details are awaited, the suspicion in Downing Street will be that the Kremlin has carried out another brazen assassination operation on British soil.

    Scientists at Porton Down have assisted in the investigation, which is being led by Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command, SO15, with significant help from the intelligence agencies.

    The investigation is comprised of multiple strands. Among them is whether there is any more of the nerve agent in the UK, and where it came from.

    Chemical weapons experts said it was almost impossible to make nerve agents without training. “This needs expertise and a special place to make it or you will kill yourself. It’s only a small amount, but you don’t make this in your kitchen,” one said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

  73. blf says

    I was rather wondering just why the EU picked certain specific products in retaliation should hair furor go ahead which his trade war. France24 explains, Bourbon, peanut butter, Levis: EU goes tactical in looming US trade war:

    Bourbon, Levi’s jeans and Harley Davidson: these are the main products Brussels is threatening to tax in the event of US tariffs on imports of aluminum and steel. The EU did not chose these products by chance.

    EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström on Wednesday added that the EU’s counter-measures would also include tariffs on US steel and agricultural products as well as on peanut butter, cranberries and orange juice.

    […]

    On paper, America seems to have a stronger position than Europe: US exports of Bourbon, Levi’s and Harley Davidsons to the EU amount to a mere $3 billion while European exports of aluminium and steel to the US amount to $20 billion.

    However, what matters most to Brussels is the political cost sanctions would have for the Trump administration. The products the EU has single out would putatively affect US States led by politicians with strong leverage over Trump.

    Bourbon? The specialty and pride of Kentucky, the region led by Senator and leader of the Republican majority Mitch McConnell.

    Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan’s constituency of Wisconsin houses the world-famous Harley Davidson factory.

    And Nancy Pelosi, the Minority Leader of the US House of Representatives, represents San Francisco, where Levi Strauss jeans are manufactured.

    The EU wants to let the US president [sic] know that the outbreak of a trade war may be politically damaging for him. The threat is not to be taken lightly. In 2002, during the last trade dispute between the USA and the EU, Brussels had successfully fought against tariffs on European iron exports using the same selective technique. In particular, the EU targeted orange juice produced in Florida, a state then led by president-to-be George W Bush.

    “We had a lot of fun because we knew it was the kind of situation where we were sure to win,” Paul Defraigne, the former chief of staff of the European Trade Commissioner in office in 2002, told Politico.

  74. says

    blf @97, yes that comment did need some added context. Thanks for the clarification and the context. It’s kind of amazing that, at the time, Cohn still thought he might be able to persuade Trump by presenting facts, another side of the issue, and the input of other people. Thankless task.

    Stephen Miller, a racist and liar is still in the White House. I have revised my expectations down so far that I now look on Cohn as one of the less-bad guys. Yes, he had a hand in the give-to-the-rich-take-from-the-poor tax bill, but he didn’t scuttle DACA agreements like Miller and Kelly did.

  75. blf says

    Israel’s version of a Muslim ban,† Israel passes law to strip residency of Jerusalem’s Palestinians:

    The Israeli parliament has passed a law that allows the minister of interior to revoke the residency rights of any Palestinian in Jerusalem on grounds of breach of loyalty to Israel.

    […]

    Under the new measure, Israel’s Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, leader of the ultra-Orthodox political party Shas, will be able to strip the residency documents of any Palestinian who he deems a threat.

    Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), described the law as “an extremely racist piece of legislation”.

    […]

    Despite Israel’s claims that occupied East Jerusalem is part of its eternal, undivided capital, the Palestinians who are born and live there do not hold Israeli citizenship, unlike their Jewish counterparts.

    Palestinians in the city are given permanent residency ID cards and temporary Jordanian passports that are only used for travel purposes. They are essentially stateless, stuck in legal limbo — they are not citizens of Israel, nor are they citizens of Jordan or Palestine.

    The new bill will only worsen the difficult conditions for the 420,000 Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem, who are treated as foreign immigrants by the state.

    Any Palestinian who has lived outside of Jerusalem for a certain period of time, whether in a foreign country or even in the occupied West Bank, is at risk of losing their right to live there.

    Since 1967, Israel has revoked the status of at least 14,000 Palestinians.

    In a statement on his Twitter page, Deri, the interior minister, said this law would allow him to protect the security of Israeli citizens.

    Deri, who was in the past convicted of bribery, fraud and “breach of trust”, said the law would be used against permanent residents who plan to carry out attacks against Israeli citizens.

    Adalah, a Palestinian rights group in Israel, said the law is illegal under international humanitarian law.

    “East Jerusalem is considered occupied territory under international humanitarian law (IHL) […] and its Palestinian residents are a protected civilian population. It is therefore illegal under IHL to impose upon them an obligation of loyalty to the occupying power, let alone to deny them the permanent residency status on this basis,” a statement by the group said.

    In a recent report, Human Rights Watch said such residency revocations, which force Palestinians out of Jerusalem, “could amount to war crimes” under the treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

    […]

      † Yes, I am aware not all Palestinians are Muslims.

  76. says

    “Top Republicans urge Sessions to appoint special counsel to probe FBI”:

    Two powerful House Republicans are pressuring Attorney General Jeff Sessions to appoint a prosecutor to investigate the FBI’s 2016 decision to spy on Carter Page, a former campaign aide to President Donald Trump.

    House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy sent a letter Tuesday to Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, urging them to name a special counsel to review Republicans’ allegations that the FBI misled a federal judge to obtain a warrant to conduct surveillance of Page, whose contacts with Kremlin-connected Russians had drawn agents’ scrutiny.

    “We think this is a very serious matter regarding conduct by the FBI and by some in the Department of Justice that calls for the appointment of a special counsel who will have subpoena and prosecutorial powers,” Goodlatte told reporters in his Capitol office….

    I never thought Gowdy would magically become decent or honest, retirement aside, but I did momentarily believe when he announced that he’d seen the way the wind was blowing and decided to extricate himself from the Trump-Putin swamp. Nope.

  77. says

    SC @116, Thanks for that roundup of financial/influence-peddling shenanigans. We keep seeing the same names popping up in various questionable deals and schemes. All the best people.

    In other news, Besty DeVos attacked teachers on Twitter. Teachers, in turn, kicked her ass. DeVos tweeted:

    Does this look familiar? Students lined up in rows. A teacher in front of a blackboard. Sit down; don’t talk; eyes up front. Wait for the bell. Walk to the next class. Everything about our lives has moved beyond the industrial era. But American education largely hasn’t. #SXSWEDU

    Reaction: https://twitter.com/puckettgarcia/status/971211343574552576

    More reaction: https://twitter.com/puckettgarcia/status/971215909137408002

    From Diane Ravitch:

    Betsy,
    You need to visit more public schools. You are stereotyping and out of touch. There is enormous variety in our classrooms, except for the standardized factory-style tests that Congress mandates.

    From Teresa Hurtado:

    Don’t you know that stock photos aren’t real? How many classrooms have you visited in the past year? Classrooms don’t look like that anymore. Students don’t work like that anymore. I would think that as Sec of Edu you would be celebrating us, not putting us down.

    Link

  78. says

    Follow-up to comment 124.

    Betsy DeVos took further steps to make herself look like a throwback to the 1950s who is suffering from a complete empathy deficit:

    Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is almost as bad at making herself seem warm, human, and sympathetic as her boss is, a skill that was on full display during her much-publicized visit to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday.

    While DeVos doesn’t have Donald Trump’s record of grinning and giving a thumbs up in photos with survivors of horrible tragedy, what she did in Parkland isn’t a whole lot better: she made a big deal of going to the school but refused to interact with students other than representatives of school publications. “One student from each publication (tv prod./newspaper/yearbook) was able to see her and take pictures of her, no one followed her,” a student editor explained, saying:

    I thought she would at least give us her “thoughts and prayers,” but she refused to even meet/speak with students. I don’t understand the point of her being here

    She wasn’t the only one to object to DeVos using the school as a PR opportunity without talking to the students:

    Do something unexpected: answer our questions. You came to our school just for publicity and avoided our questions for the 90 minutes you were actually here. How about you actually do your job? [from Aly Sheehy]

    Given that DeVos made headlines during her confirmation hearing last year with her suggestion that guns should be allowed in schools because of “potential grizzlies,” you can see where she wouldn’t have wanted to talk to any survivor-activists—any more than they wanted to talk to her. But did she really think she was going to get good publicity from going to their school and not talking to them?

    Don’t worry, though! She told the student newspaper reporters that she’d “love to come back sometime in an appropriate amount of time and just sit down and talk with them.” Any bets on how long that “appropriate amount of time” will turn out to be?

    Link

  79. says

    Betsy DeVos, quoted in Lynna’s #124:

    Does this look familiar? Students lined up in rows. A teacher in front of a blackboard. Sit down; don’t talk; eyes up front. Wait for the bell. Walk to the next class. Everything about our lives has moved beyond the industrial era. But American education largely hasn’t.

    DeVos’s family are major funders of James Dobson, longtime advocate of the religious indoctrination and physical abuse of children.

  80. says

    Jeff Sessions is suing California.

    The Trump administration filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking to strong-arm California state officials into the administration’s efforts to deport more undocumented immigrants.

    At least one of the Justice Department’s three claims borders on frivolous. A second relies on the kind of aggressive reading of existing doctrines that, while likely to inspire a raft of academic articles, would nevertheless have trouble finding five votes on the Supreme Court. The DOJ’s third, and most plausible claim, challenges a provision of California law that doesn’t actually do all that much to thwart immigration enforcement. Rather, it simply requires the state attorney general to gather information on detention facilities.

    The case is United States v. California. Let’s take its claims in turn, from least plausible to most.

    The administration’s weakest claim conflicts with a doctrine known as “anti-commandeering,” which prohibits the federal government from commanding state or local officials to enforce a federal law or otherwise carry out a federal policy. As a general rule, the feds can hire their own law enforcement officers to arrest people who violate federal laws, or to round up immigrants who are eligible for deportation, but they cannot require state officials to enforce federal laws against the state’s will.

    Nevertheless, the Trump administration claims that California state officials must be commandeered into federal service against their will.

    […] the federal government doesn’t have the power to order state officials to cooperate with federal law enforcement. […]

    Link. Much more at the link.

    When Sessions announced the lawsuit, he included a bunch of lies and fear-mongering memes about immigrants. It was ugly.

  81. says

    Electing far-right demagogues the world over:

    “Thank God for the internet, thank God for social media, thank God for Facebook,” Matteo Salvini, the openly-racist leader of the far-right Lega party, told reporters on Monday morning. […]

    According to Il Post journalist Davide Maria De Luca, who spoke to BuzzFeed News this week, Salvini has plenty of reasons to be grateful for social media, which helped push his far-right, anti-immigrant beliefs to the forefront of the election.

    “Facebook was a huge part of his surge in the polls. In the last month of the election campaign he launched what was called a ‘revolution of common sense,’ presenting himself like your good neighbour who has all the good ideas,” he said. “His political Facebook posts were always about immigration. There was also crime committed by migrants and well, crime in general.” […]

    Link

  82. says

    Guardian now confirming:

    The former Russian spy Sergei Skripal was deliberately poisoned with a nerve agent in a case that police are now treating as attempted murder, Scotland Yard’s assistant chief commissioner has confirmed this afternoon.

    Mark Rowley said the police officer who was first to the spot where the pair were found in Salisbury on Sunday afternoon was now “seriously ill” in hospital. His condition had deteriorated, Rowley said, adding: “Wiltshire police are providing support to his family.”

    Describing the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter Yulia, as a major incident Rowley said that scientists had identified the toxin used. He refused to reveal the poison.

    All three were suffering from “exposure to a nerve agent”. Detectives now believed that Sergei and Yulia Skripal were specifically targeted, he added, in a deliberate act. The two victims are still critically ill in hospital….

  83. says

    Follow-up to comment 128.

    Here are some of the egregious things that Jeff Sessions said when he announced that he is suing California:

    “Here’s my message to Mayor Schaaf [Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf]: How dare you,” Sessions said Wednesday. “How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of our law enforcement officers to promote a radical open borders agenda.”

    He said the Justice Department isn’t asking the state to enforce federal immigration law, but rather is asking California and local jurisdictions to “stop actively obstructing federal law enforcement.”

    “California is using every power it has, and some it doesn’t, to frustrate federal law enforcement,” Sessions said. “So you can be sure I’m going to use every power I have to stop them.”

    I bolded “to promote a radical open borders agenda” because that’s emblematic of the lies that Sessions told in order to justify the lawsuit.

  84. says

    Follow-up to comments 128 and 131.

    California Governor Jerry Brown responded:

    This is really unprecedented for the chief law enforcement officer of the United States to come out to California and act more like Fox News than a law enforcement officer. This is a political stunt. We know the Trump administration is full of liars. They’ve pled guilty already to the special counsel.

    This is basically going to war against the state of California, the engine of the American economy. It’s not wise, it’s not right, and it will not stand.

  85. says

    Follow-up to comments 128, 131, and 132.

    Nancy Pelosi responded:

    The people of California will not be bowed by the Trump Administration’s brazen aggression and intimidation tactics. We will fight this sham lawsuit and will fight all cowardly attacks on our immigrant communities.

  86. says

    ABC – “Several White House staffers terminated or reassigned for security clearance issues: Sources”:

    Several White House staffers have been terminated or reassigned for issues related to their security clearances — with at least one individual employed in the Office of the First Lady relieved of duty, sources with direct knowledge tell ABC News.

    There is a list of several other individuals with security clearance issues that are under consideration for possible termination or reassignment in the coming days, sources also tell ABC News….

  87. says

    Trump is taking a sledgehammer to health care … again.

    Congress will get one last shot later this month to pass a modest plan to help fix the Obamacare marketplaces — that is, unless the Trump administration torpedoes what has been until now a very uneasy truce.

    After months of discussions, a pair of plans — one negotiated by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), the other from Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) — would inject billions of dollars of federal money into the insurance markets, while also giving Republicans a win by providing some more administrative flexibility for states to pursue their own health care programs.

    But then on Tuesday, Politico and the Wall Street Journal reported that the White House is making some deeply conservative demands if Trump is going to support a stabilization plan. They want to place abortion restrictions on federal tax credits, they want to allow insurers to charge older people even higher premiums, and they want to expand short-term insurance plans that don’t have to comply with Obamacare’s rules. […]

    Link

    Why is Trump against stabilizing the insurance market, which is a small step in the right direction? That’s a bipartisan step.

    Trump is more interested in making sure that Obamacare completely fails than he is in making sure that Americans have access to health care. Is this the “love” he talked about?

  88. says

    Trump delivered a speech at the Latino Coalition Legislative Summit today. He lied.

    Trump told the gathering that Democrats “don’t care about our immigration system” and he also blamed Democrats for the failure to pass DACA legislation. “Go push those Democrats,” he said.

    Trump also claimed that Latinos believe in his “merit-based” immigration system. Trump said that Latinos believe that immigration to the U.S. should be determined by skill level.

  89. KG says

    Lynna, OM@129,

    While Salvini has claimed he should be Italian Prime Minister as leader of the coalition which got most seats and votes, the single party (it claims not to be one, but it is) with most votes and seats was the MS5 (“Five Star Movement”), whose declared policies are all over the place and constantly changing, although they include environmentalist rhetoric. Ominously, however, its leader, Luigi Di Maiois the son of a neo-fascist politician, and (like most prominent Italian politicians) has made anti-migrant statements. Despite saying during the election campaign that it was not going to take part in a coalition, MS5 now says it is open to negotiations. Prospects will be truly grim if it links up with La Lega. My guess is that new elections will follow fairly shortly, but will again fail to produce a clear result.

  90. says

    Another one: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the imported steel and I quit.”

  91. blf says

    Attendance at the annual Paris International Agricultural Show is de rigueur for French politicians, which frequently leads to amusing incidents as they unintentionally make fools of themselves. Now it’s Macron et al‘s turn, The British have Brexit. We French have our wine delusion:

    Sure, it occasionally leaves us horizontal, but it’s a proud part of our identity. And anyway, we don’t drink as much as you. Right…?
    […]
    The fair often becomes the scene of minor gaffes as senior politicos trip over themselves to show just how provincial and normal they are, with predictable results — a particularly amusing example in 2015 involved the then prime minister, Manuel Valls, getting thoroughly sloshed.

    Emmanuel Macron didn’t appear drunk at the agriculture show last week, but alcohol did end up causing him a headache. Speaking to journalists from the regional press, the president admitted to drinking wine every day “with lunch and dinner” […]

    “It is a danger to public health when young people binge-drink spirits or beer,” he added, but wine isn’t the issue. […]

    This clearly didn’t go far enough for Christophe Castaner, the secretary of state for parliamentary relations, who took it upon himself to add in a TV interview: Let’s not get carried away — there’s alcohol in wine, but it’s not strong alcohol. […]

    Shockingly, this didn’t please everyone. In an open letter published by the newspaper Le Figaro on Monday, nine health professionals politely but firmly reminded the head of state and his minister that wine is — believe it or not — an alcoholic beverage like any other.

    “From the liver’s point of view, wine really is alcohol!” was the title of the letter, which pointed out that nearly 60% of all alcohol consumed in France is in wine, and that alcohol kills around 50,000 people a year in the country.

    […]

    France24 has a short backgrounder on the show and the reality, Cute animals and fed-up farmers: Paris’s Agricultural Show (video; English): “[…] The Salon de l’Agriculture is one of the most popular cultural events in Paris. For French politicians, it’s a golden opportunity for a charm offensive. But for all the public displays of affection, the French farming industry is in the midst of a major crisis. Many farmers are quite literally struggling to survive.”

  92. says

    A few words from Trump’s buddy, Russian President Vladimir Putin:

    […] Speaking in an interview […] Putin described Trump as a great communicator.

    “I have no disappointment at all,” Putin said when asked about the U.S. president. “Moreover, on a personal level he made a very good impression on me.”

    Trump’s going to love that. I bet we’ll hear him repeat it ad nauseum.

    […] Putin praised Trump as a “balanced” man, who easily gets into the gist of various issues and listens to his interlocutor.

    “It’s possible to negotiate with him, to search for compromises,” Putin added.

    He also noted that he spent some time talking to Melania Trump when he sat next to her during an official dinner at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany in July. The Russian leader said he told her and the wife of the Italian premier “about Siberia and Kamchatka, about fishing … about bears on Kamchatka and tigers in the Far East.”

    “I made some exaggerations,” the action-loving Russian leader said with a grin. “When you talk about fishing, you can’t help exaggerating.” […]

    Venting his frustration with the U.S. political system, Putin said “it has demonstrated its inefficiency and has been eating itself up.”

    “It’s quite difficult to interact with such a system, because it’s unpredictable,” Putin said. […]

    He said he was particularly dismayed by what he described as the U.S. role in the ouster of Ukraine’s Russia-friendly president in February 2014 amid massive protests.

    Putin charged that the U.S. had asked Russia to help persuade then-President Viktor Yanukovych not to use force against protesters and then “rudely and blatantly” cheated Russia, sponsoring what he called a “coup.”

    Russia responded by annexing Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

    “Few expected us to act so quickly and so resolutely, not to say daringly,” Putin said.

    He described the Western sanctions over Crimea and the insurgency in eastern Ukraine as part of “illegitimate and unfair” efforts to contain Russia, adding that “we will win in the long run.”

    “Those who serve us with poison will eventually swallow it and poison themselves,” he said. […]

    Responding to a question about Russia’s growing global leverage, Putin responded: “If we play strongly with weak cards, it means the others are just poor players, they aren’t as strong as it seemed, they must be lacking something.” […]

    “The decision to use nuclear weapons can only be made if our early warning system not only detects a missile launch but clearly forecasts its flight path and the time when warheads reach the Russian territory,” he said. “If someone makes a decision to destroy Russia, then we have a legitimate right to respond.”

    He added starkly: “Yes, it will mean a global catastrophe for mankind, for the entire world. But as a citizen of Russia and the head of Russian state I would ask: What is such a world for, if there were no Russia?”

    Link

  93. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 112.

    […] Patrick Markey, a psychology professor at Villanova University who focuses on video games, found in his research that men who commit severe acts of violence actually play violent video games less than the average male. About 20 percent were interested in violent video games, compared with 70 percent of the general population, he explained in his 2017 book “Moral Combat: Why the War on Violent Video Games Is Wrong.”

    Another study by Markey and his colleagues showed that violence tends to dip when a new violent movie or video game comes out, possibility because people are at home playing the game or in theaters watching the movie.

    “Everything kind of suggests no link, or if anything, it goes in the opposite direction,” Markey said in an interview. […]

    Trump has suggested rating both games and movies for violence. Such ratings already exist. […]

    https://apnews.com/1bebc3d683b3430f940d58c20828fbb1

  94. says

    News from Kris Kobach’s day in court:

    […] On his way into a federal courthouse Wednesday, Kris Kobach asked the guards if he or an associate would be allowed to bring a firearm the next day and check it at their desk if he isn’t accompanied by a security detail.

    The guards told him no. […]

    The first witness called during the trial’s second day was Marge Ahrens, a former co-president of the Kansas League of Women Voters, who testified on the law’s impact to voter registration drives after the law took effect in 2013.

    “It was a dead hit. It was absolutely a blow… The League was really knocked off its feet,” Ahrens said. “We stopped registering voters. It was just that pure and simple.” […]

    http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article203887994.html

  95. says

    Some of Trump’s tough and ill-informed talk about tariffs was walked back, sort of, at the White House press briefing today:

    “There are potential carve-outs for Mexico and Canada based on national security, and possibly other countries as well based on that process” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters, adding other nations could receive exemptions as well.

    “That would be a case-by-case and country-by-country basis but it would be determined whether or not there is a national security exemption,” she said.

    I don’t trust the Trump administration to efficiently manage any case-by-case decisions. See comment 78 for an example of the Trump administration failing to implement proper case-by-case guidelines for imports of elephant (and other endangered species) trophies. And see comment 84 for the Trump administration’s failure to follow case-by-case promises when it comes to immigration.

    However, there are a lot of Republicans upset about the overly-broad tariff remarks made by Trump, so maybe they will follow up. And then there’s Justin Trudeau, who is not likely to allow Canada to be successfully bullied by Trump.

    It did irritate me that Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeated the lie about “national security.” See comment 59 for a thorough debunking of that “national security” excuse for Trump’s tariffs.

  96. says

    Putin, quoted in Lynna’s #142:

    He described the Western sanctions over Crimea and the insurgency in eastern Ukraine as part of “illegitimate and unfair” efforts to contain Russia, adding that “we will win in the long run.”

    “Those who serve us with poison will eventually swallow it and poison themselves,” he said.

    Interesting choice of metaphor. I think Putin might have started to believe his own propaganda. His success with Trump and the minimal repercussions for that and other domestic and international crimes have made him incautious and arrogant to the point of delusion. He might have a reckoning with reality in his future.

    “The decision to use nuclear weapons can only be made if our early warning system not only detects a missile launch but clearly forecasts its flight path and the time when warheads reach the Russian territory,” he said.

    FFS, they shot down a passenger jet a few years ago.

  97. blf says

    Because Mother Theresa is dead, AGW is a hoax. Or something like that. An Irish global warming denialist in action, Danny Healy-Rae: Climate change plan will target farmers:

    TD [Irish MP] says farmers will be forced to pay for the new measures as Mother Teresa died

    Farmers and other working people will be unfairly targeted and forced to pay for the €22 billion committed in the National Development Plan to tackling climate change, according to Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae.

    Speaking at a meeting on Wednesday of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, which is examining likely impacts of climate change, the Kerry TD said that €480 million in carbon taxes was already being raised every year, but he did not see this money going into “what the climate change body or global warming crowd are talking about”.

    He said he suspected the funds were going into social services.

    […]

    Who is going to pay for that? ’Tis the people working and the farmers who will have to pay, because there are no Mother Teresas. Mother Teresa died. There are no leprechauns.

    Mr Healy-Rae said that if the State became “emissions-free” it would only contribute a reduction of 0.13 per cent in global emissions. Within the Irish context, he claimed farmers were being unfairly blamed for emissions “based on some people’s views on climate change and global warming”.

    Farmers had been pushed into agricultural intensification and into setting aside land, and there was a satellite or cameras in the sky watching over them if they did not do it.

    […]

    He reiterated his view that climate change was already occurring at a time when there wasn’t the number of cattle and combustion engines in the world that there is now.

    He said he voted against the Paris Agreement on climate change in the Dáil on this basis.

    […]

    He also disputed the suitability of low-emission electric cars for Ireland, as they may not be able to negotiate the type of floods he had successfully negotiated in Co Kerry over the past fortnight with his diesel car.

    For some reason, the name Healy-Rae rings a bell with me, albeit he was not in the Dáil when I lived Ireland.† Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge quotes him as blithering (on AGW) God above is in charge of the weather and that we here cannot do anything about it.

      † I might be recalling his father, Jackie Healy-Rae, who was in the Dáil at the time — but know I have no recollection of why I’m vaguely, maybe, recalling him…

  98. says

    Huckabee Sanders unintentionally confirmed the secret arbitration during today’s press briefing, by the way.

    Further to #152: Daniels is a private citizen. Cohen has a long history of violent threats against journalists and others, but this country isn’t going to take the occupant of the Oval Office secretly using his private goons to intimidate and silence private citizens who have information about him while lying to the public. It’s an abuse, and it’s contrary to democracy and transparency.

  99. says

    “Hope Hicks told House Intelligence Committee she was hacked, sources say”:

    Hope Hicks told the House Intelligence Committee last week that one of her email accounts was hacked, according to people who were present for the former White House communications director’s testimony in the panel’s Russia probe.

    Under relatively routine questioning from Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., about her correspondence, Hicks indicated that she could no longer access two accounts: One she used as a member of President Donald Trump’s campaign team and a personal account, according to four people who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the closed meeting of the Intelligence Committee was supposed to remain private.

    Hicks, who portrayed herself as not savvy in matters of technology, told lawmakers that one of the accounts was hacked, according to two sources who were in the room. It is unclear if Hicks was referring to a campaign or personal account….

  100. says

    “Trump Spoke to Witnesses About Matters They Discussed With Special Counsel”:

    The special counsel in the Russia investigation has learned of two conversations in recent months in which President Trump asked key witnesses about matters they discussed with investigators, according to three people familiar with the encounters.

    In one episode, the president told an aide that the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, should issue a statement denying a New York Times article in January. The article said Mr. McGahn told investigators that the president once asked him to fire the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. McGahn never released a statement and later had to remind the president that he had indeed asked Mr. McGahn to see that Mr. Mueller was dismissed, the people said.

    In the other episode, Mr. Trump asked his former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, how his interview had gone with the special counsel’s investigators and whether they had been “nice,” according to two people familiar with the discussion.

    The episodes demonstrate that even as the special counsel investigation appears to be intensifying, the president has ignored his lawyers’ advice to avoid doing anything publicly or privately that could create the appearance of interfering with it.

    Legal experts said Mr. Trump’s contact with the men most likely did not rise to the level of witnesses tampering. But witnesses and lawyers who learned about the conversations viewed them as potentially a problem and shared them with Mr. Mueller….

  101. says

    From John Cassidy, writing for The New Yorker:

    […] The Times reported that Trump was “infuriated” by Cohn’s decision to leave and had denounced him to other people as a “globalist.”

    As the former chief operating officer of a global bank and a firm believer in expanding trade links, Cohn can hardly argue with that designation. Seemingly, he had spent months trying to head off the imposition of broad-based tariffs, at times arguing fiercely with two senior Administration officials who supported this option: Wilbur Ross, the Commerce Secretary, and Peter Navarro, a dissident economist who holds the title of director of trade and industrial policy at the White House.

    Although Cohn had a strong intellectual argument—What sense does it make to punish countries like Canada, when it is China that is dumping goods at artificially low prices in the U.S. market?—he lost the political battle. Last week, Trump, who was reportedly furious at a series of setbacks in other areas, cut Cohn out of the policy process and announced the tariffs before they had even been finalized.

    Cohn was supposedly in the White House to prevent Trump from doing dumb things on the economic front, so Trump’s dumb Presidential edict on tariffs left him with little option but to resign.

    […] But what did Cohn expect? During the campaign, Trump hardly hid his intention to shift American trade policy in a protectionist direction. For months now, he has reportedly been asking, “Where are my tariffs?” If avoiding a trade war was a matter of principle for Cohn, why did he take the job in the first place? Perhaps he thought that Trump had been bluffing during the campaign, in which case he hadn’t done his due diligence: Trump has been a vocal protectionist since the nineteen-eighties.

    Perhaps Cohn believed that Trump wouldn’t overrule him. If that’s true, he was deluding himself. Although Trump sometimes defers to his “generals,” as he calls them, he rides roughshod over anybody else who works for him, however rich or experienced they are. […]

    Link

  102. says

    “Mueller gathers evidence that 2017 Seychelles meeting was effort to establish back channel to Kremlin”:

    Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has gathered evidence that a secret meeting in the Seychelles just before the inauguration of Donald Trump was an effort to establish a back channel between the incoming administration and the Kremlin — apparently contradicting statements made to lawmakers by one of its participants, according to people familiar with the matter.

    In January 2017, Erik Prince, the founder of the private security company Blackwater, met with a Russian official close to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and later described the meeting to congressional investigators as a chance encounter that was not a planned discussion of U.S.-Russia relations.

    A witness cooperating with Mueller has told investigators the meeting was set up in advance so that a representative of the Trump transition could meet with an emissary from Moscow to discuss future relations between the countries, according to the people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

    George Nader, a Lebanese American businessman who helped organize and attended the Seychelles meeting, has testified on the matter before a grand jury gathering evidence about discussions between the Trump transition team and emissaries of the Kremlin, as part of Mueller’s investigation into Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 election….

  103. says

    Wait – did I know this?:

    Nader had also attended a December 2016 meeting in New York between senior Trump advisers and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, according to a person familiar with the matter.

  104. says

    This reads like a story straight out of the Carter Page transcript:

    Prince told lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee that he did not plan to meet Dmitriev in the Seychelles but that once he was there discussing possible business deals with UAE officials, they unexpectedly suggested that he visit the hotel bar and meet Dmitriev.

    “At the end, one of the entourage says, ‘Hey, by the way, there’s this Russian guy that we’ve dealt with in the past. He’s here also to see someone from the Emirati delegation. And you should meet him, he’d be an interesting guy for you to know, since you’re doing a lot in the oil and gas and mineral space,’ ” Prince told lawmakers.

  105. says

    SC @156:

    […] McGahn never released a statement and later had to remind the president that he had indeed asked Mr. McGahn to see that Mr. Mueller was dismissed […]

    What else has Trump forgotten?

    This is alarming.

  106. says

    Also from the article referenced in comment 158:

    […] Like the other members of Trump’s economic team, Cohn’s reputation will ultimately rest on how the G.O.P. tax bill affects the economy. If it delivers the surge in G.D.P., productivity, and wages that he predicted, he will get better reviews from historians than he has received from media commentaries. If, as seems more likely, the tax reform merely raises the national debt and accentuates the country’s already alarming levels of inequality, he will go down as a clueless bigwig banker who gave up his reputation for a certificate from Trump University and some handouts for his pals on Wall Street.

  107. blf says

    This bill contains a step forwards — outlawing “bump stocks”, raising the minimum age, and so on — but it also sidesteps (ignores) several points, and contains a step backwards, Florida lawmakers pass bill allowing armed teachers in classrooms:

    […]
    Florida’s lawmakers narrowly passed a controversial gun reform bill late on Wednesday that would allow armed teachers in the state’s classrooms […].

    The new legislation, which must now be approved by the Florida governor, Rick Scott, also raises the age at which weapons can be purchased to 21 and provides extra money for school security and mental health support.

    The package was backed by families of the Parkland victims, but strongly opposed by many Democrats, who failed to block its passage in a 67-50 vote.

    It is unclear if Scott, who has also spoken out against putting guns in classrooms, will veto the bill.

    “I’m going to take the time to read the bill,” Scott told reporters. “I have been clear. I don’t believe we should be arming teachers.”

    […]

    The measure would outlaw the sale of so-called bump stocks […] and will allow certain school personnel, including librarians, administrators and other support staff, to be armed […].

    However, a ban on assault weapons such as the AR-15 […] was missing from the proposed legislation.

    […]

    Unsurprisingly, the mass-murder fetish kooks will be unhappy, Florida House Passes Gun Control Bill, Defying NRA:

    […]
    The legislation […] would raise the minimum age to purchase any firearm to 21 from 18; impose a three-day waiting period on gun purchases; fund school police officers and mental health counselors; and allow local school districts and sheriffs to arm certain school personnel. It would also ban so-called bump stocks, […] and give law enforcement more power to commit people deemed a threat.

    While the gun bill was the first to pass in the state in years, it fell short of the demands of many of the students and educators who have in recent weeks led a national call for stronger firearm restrictions.

    […]

    […] Vote for the bill, [Stoneman Douglas High alumnus Representative Jared] Moskowitz implored his colleagues.

    “This isn’t hard,” Mr Moskowitz said. “Putting your kid in the ground is hard. This is easy.”

    […]

    The New York Times also has a more detail explainer about the bill, Florida Gun Bill: What’s in It, and What Isn’t (the following excerpt omits almost all details (unmarked)):

    What the bill does
    • Raise the minimum age.
    • Create a waiting period. Prospective gun buyers would have to wait three days, or until a background check is completed, whichever is longer. There would be some exceptions, including for police officers, members of the military, licensed hunters and licensed concealed carriers.
    • Ban bump stocks.
    • Arm school employees.
    • Fund school security.
    • Expand mental health services and regulations.

    What it doesn’t do
    • Ban assault weapons.
    • Suspend AR-15 sales.
    • Ban high-capacity magazines.
    • Strengthen background checks.

    The lack of a waiting period for concealed carry license holders appears to be a giant loophole. As Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge points out, “Florida is a shall issue [see below –blf] state, and issues concealed carry licenses to both residents and non-residents. Florida recognizes licenses from any other state which recognizes Florida’s license […]” The obvious problem here is:

    A shall-issue jurisdiction is one that requires a license to carry a concealed handgun, but where the granting of such licenses is subject only to meeting determinate criteria laid out in the law; the granting authority has no discretion in the awarding of the licenses, and there is no requirement of the applicant to demonstrate “good cause”. The laws in a Shall-Issue jurisdiction typically state that a granting authority shall issue a license if the criteria are met, as opposed to laws in which the authority may issue a license at their discretion.

    As far as I am awares, teh NRA hasn’t yet issued and spittle-flecked frothing about the bill passing, but I presume they will, and will also be putting both direct and indirect pressure on Scott to veto it. I also presume the Parkland students and their allies will be issuing sane statements, with more considered advice to Scott.

  108. blf says

    Ben Carson’s housing agency drops pledge to end housing discrimination:

    Department removes from its mission statement promises to build ‘inclusive’ communities ‘free from discrimination’

    The US housing department […], has proposed a new mission statement in which the pledge to build “inclusive” communities “free from discrimination” is removed.

    The proposal comes just two weeks after the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services changed its mission statement to eliminate a passage that described the US as “a nation of immigrants”.

    A 5 March internal memo […] contained a draft of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (Hud) new, shortened mission statement, which emphasizes self-sufficiency. The author described it as an effort to align Hud’s mission with the secretary’s priorities and that of the administration.

    […]

    [Carson] has called efforts to desegregate housing social engineering and has been criticized for rolling back proposals aimed at eliminating housing discrimination for the LGBTQ community.

    The new mission statement, advanced in the memo by Amy Thompson, a Hud political staffer, reads:

    Hud’s mission is to ensure Americans have access to fair, affordable housing and opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency, thereby strengthening our communities and nation.

    In a statement, a Hud spokesman, Raffi Williams, said the proposed changes to the Hud mission statement were modest and intended to make it more clear and concise.

    HUD’s existing (current) mission statement is:

    HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination, and transform the way HUD does business.

    Modest changes? Quite a difference! Some of the other things which have gone missing: Sustainable; Quality; Protect consumers; and any mention of renting. (The one missing thing which perhaps should go missing is the seemingly-circular “HUD’s mission is to […] transform the way HUD does business” — Huh?)

    Hud has been, is now, and will always be committed to ensuring inclusive housing, free from discrimination for all Americans, he said.

    But housing rights groups questioned why the agency would remove the promise from its guiding credo.

    “If they’re willing to remove that from the mission statement, are they really making it a priority?” said Megan Hustings, the interim director of the National Coalition for the Homeless.

    […]

  109. blf says

    Make Kushner Epcot Ambassador

    (I’m not quite sure what a “Epcot Ambassador” is, I presume here that is another name for a “Disney World Ambassador”…)
    Whilst that should cure any lingering affection for Mickey Mouse, there are at least two problems: (1) It would scare the kiddies; and (2) Supposedly, a Disney World Ambassador is an “honored positions in which they will represent their co-workers […]” (Disney World selects new ambassadors) — I cannot see Kushner representing anyone but himself, and the only honor I’d like to see him get is an all-expenses paid one-way trip into a prison.

  110. blf says

    Calls to exterminate the homeless, refugees posted on Belgian party website (France24 edits in {curly braces}):

    The liberal political party in power in Belgium posted a project submitted to its website by a user calling for the extermination of ‘our homeless people’ and refugees on March 5. The publication was met with widespread shock. The party claimed it was a “technical error”.

    In the run-up to local elections set for October 2018, the Belgian Reformist Movement (In French, Le Mouvement réformateur, or MR) invited followers to post political propositions on its website. One person jumped on the opportunity to call for the killing of refugees and homeless people.

    The text, which was written in French, has been preserved in screengrabs made before it was deleted.

    In order to be able to respond to the demands of the population, In order to be able to resolve the problems caused by the blossoming of political debates {about} supporting homeless people and refugees, I propose the extermination of {these} two pests because they create insecurity in our town. Vote! Vote! Vote! Vote MR!

    […]

    The MR party told the Belgian press that the post ended up on their site due to a “technical error” as there was a lack of control over the comments left by citizens: “All of the projects suggested by citizens were published before validation {…} These values obviously run counter to those defended by our party”.

    With the reading that “MR is too stoopid to moderate posts to political forum”, I’m inclined to believe them, and wonder if this was from a “genuine” albeit misguided MR supporter or a troll.

  111. blf says

    Sorry, a bit more on le penazi orge, Ahead of homophobia trial, Jean-Marie Le Pen comes out of closet about loving gays:

    Jean-Marie Le Pen, who is set to be tried for insulting homosexuals and inciting homophobia on June 13, told a French gay magazine this week that he is not homophobic — except his comments were, themselves, homophobic.

    Le Pen […] told the magazine Friendly: As long as homosexuals do not touch the fly on my trousers or of my grandchildren, and that they do not walk down the Champs-Elysees with a feather in their ass, I do not care.

    The founder of the National Front party, who has repeatedly described the Nazi gas chambers as a mere detail of history, said attacks against homosexuals generally come from Muslims.

    I make the difference between homosexuals and ‘homosexualists’ who are the ones who turn their personal sexual choice into political ideology, he stated. LGBT is a lobby that wants to influence opinion, and stands as a representative of a community without the mandate, he added.

    Teh Gay! My best friend in the world, Adolph, was soooo right to cure my problem with his gas chambers!! And Benghazi!!!

    The MEP is set to face trial for a series of comments against homosexuals. In March 2016, he said in a blog: I believe pedophilia, has found its roots {…} in the admiration of homosexuality. Then in December 2016 he told French newspaper Le Figaro that homosexuals are like salt in the soup: if there is not enough it’s a little bland, if there is too much it’s undrinkable.

    […]

  112. blf says

    A problem with a serious underlying cause and an amusing effect, European clocks lose six minutes after dispute saps power from electricity grid:

    A row between Kosovo and Serbia is draining energy from the continent’s 25-nation system, causing electronic clocks to fall behind

    [… A]n unprecedented lag in the continent’s electricity grid […] is causing some clocks to run too slowly.

    The problem is caused by a political dispute between Serbia and Kosovo that is sapping a small amount of energy from the local grid, causing a domino effect across Europe’s 25-nation synchronized high voltage power network spanning the continent from Portugal to Poland and Greece to Germany.

    The European power grid lobby group urged the two Balkan countries to resolve the dispute.

    “Since the European system is interconnected {…} when there is an imbalance somewhere the frequency slightly drops,” said Claire Camus, a spokeswoman for the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E).

    The continental network had lost 113GWh of energy since mid-January because Kosovo had been using more electricity than it generates. Serbia, which is responsible for balancing Kosovo’s grid, had failed to do so, ENTSO-E said.

    […]

    The deviation from Europe’s standard 50Hz frequency has been enough to cause electric clocks that keep time by the power system’s frequency, rather than built-in quartz crystals, to fall behind by about six minutes since mid-January.

    The problem mostly affects radio alarms, oven clocks or clocks used to program heating systems.

    […]

    “This is beyond the technical world. Now there needs to be an agreement between Serbia and Kosovo about this lack of energy in the Kosovo system. You need to solve it politically and then technically,” Camus said.

    […] Since the war in Kosovo ended in 1999, the Serb-dominated north of Kosovo that remains loyal to Belgrade has not paid the Kosovo government for the energy it consumes.

    A 2015 agreement was meant to resolve the dispute, but Serbia has blocked its implementation.

    […]

    This very morning, I noticed my watch — which recharges its battery using solar power — was about 10 minutes slow. And now I know why! ;-) And here I was, blaming it on a lack of sunlight to recharge the battery…

    (Technically, what is happening with the grid — not my watch, which really does just need recharging — is that an overloaded generator’s speed often drops, reducing the frequency. That can trigger a knock-on ripple effect, as other generators start to overload to compensate. The effect at any one time is negligible (at human scales), but when allowed to persist over time — in this case, for around two months — it adds up; two months at a slightly lower frequency becomes noticeable. (Takes engineer’s hat off.))

  113. blf says

    Somewhat connected to a previous comment about two months ago, and with a much much stronger connection to hair furor this time, Trump donor Elliott Broidy named in Ukraine criminal probe:

    Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy under scrutiny over alleged deal with sanctioned Russian bank VTB.

    The Prosecutor General of Ukraine has launched an investigation into claims surrounding an alleged multi-million dollar lobbying contract that names one of US President [sic] Donald Trump’s most influential fundraisers, Elliott Broidy.

    The 12-page document, which appears to have been signed by Broidy, outlines his role as providing “political advocacy” on behalf of a now sanctioned Russian bank, VTB.

    The deal was apparently dated June 12, 2014, just weeks before VTB Bank was blacklisted by the United States and European Union as a key Kremlin asset following Russia’s invasion of Crimea. Russian President Vladimir Putin is guest of honour at VTB Bank’s investor conference every year.

    The document raises serious questions about whether Broidy is in breach of the US Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a law that has gained prominence following the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller into foreign meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his aide Rick Gates have both been charged as a result of their work in Ukraine.

    The document, obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, also suggests that Broidy, a national deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, would provide the same services to Investment Capital Ukraine (ICU), a Ukraine brokerage that has acted as financial advisors to President Petro Poroshenko.

    “If this is a bonafide document, it is very troubling,” says the Washington-based organisation Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

    […]

    Details of the alleged consultancy first emerged in Ukraine in January. The files were handed to Ukraine’s Prosecutor General, who has ordered the Kiev Prosecutor’s office to investigate further.

    Ukraine’s Institute of Law and Society submitted the documents to authorities, and the reform group is now calling for a thorough investigation in both Ukraine and the US.

    The document outlines the work to be undertaken by Broidy, which includes “regular political and business analysis, political advocacy, investment advice, and money management” to VTB Bank and ICU.

    The consultancy work was apparently to be paid in five annual payments of $2.5m from an offshore company, Quillas Equities SA, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands, but with an address in Dubai.  According to the Panama Papers, a massive leak of offshore documentation, Quillas Equities SA’s shareholder is Yuri Soloviev, chairman of VTB Bank.

    […]

    Last week a group calling itself LA Confidential leaked emails that appeared to show Broidy and his wife Robin Rosenzweig, deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee, asking for more than $75m to quash an investigation in the US into a multibillion-dollar fraud in Malaysia.

    Further revelations came from The New York Times, which reported that Broidy has a lucrative defence contract with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and that he had lobbied President Trump to meet privately with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the leader of the UAE. The emails suggest he has direct access to the US President.

    Romanian media have also reported Broidy’s role in negotiating arms deals worth potentially millions of dollars.

    In 2009, Broidy pleaded guilty in New York to bribing New York state pension officials with almost $1m in return for their $250m investment in an Israel-focused investment fund he helped to manage.

    He and the firm paid over $30m in fines; however, the charges against Broidy were downgraded, and he avoided jail.

    Now, Broidy claims he is the victim of a hack and smear campaign orchestrated by the state of Qatar in response to his criticism of the Gulf state’s record against terrorism […]

    […]

    A second document appears to expose further connections with the UAE. It outlines a plan for ICU and an Abu Dhabi based company to invest $40m into a fund to be managed by Broidy. The same group also handed what is described as a “Confidential Memorandum of Understanding” to prosecutors in Ukraine.

    The Abu Dhabi firm and ICU apparently agreed to provide 80 percent of the investment, including an initial $3.5m payment.

    It is unclear as to what the $40m was to be used for. This alleged MOU states that the deal was effective from December 2014, but omits specific details on how the money would be invested. It is also not clear if it was ever completed as the paperwork is unsigned.

    […]

    We believe they [the contracts –blf] are part of a malicious fraud against us, [ICU] told Al Jazeera in a statement.

    VTB Bank also denied dealing with the Republican Party fundraiser. Yuri Soloviev is not acquainted with Elliott Broidy and has never had any business dealings with him.

    […]

    Al Jazeera obtained the documents as part of a one-year investigation into corruption involving Eastern European oligarchs, which also revealed a massive off-shore corruption network linked to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

    PDFs of the documents at the link (both original Ukrainian, and English translations).

  114. says

    (I’m not quite sure what a “Epcot Ambassador” is, I presume here that is another name for a “Disney World Ambassador”…)

    No, I mean ambassador to Epcot – ambassador to Mexico, France, Canada, etc., who negotiates only with their representatives at Epcot.

  115. says

    “Amid renewed scrutiny, Erik Prince to host fundraiser for Russia-friendly congressman”:

    Blackwater founder Erik Prince will host a fundraiser this month for Russia-friendly Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, as Prince faces new questions over a 2017 meeting currently being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller.

    Prince and Rohrabacher have been friends and mutual supporters for years: Prince interned for the California congressman on Capitol Hill in 1990, and Rohrabacher vigorously defended Prince when Blackwater faced congressional scrutiny during President George W. Bush’s administration….

  116. blf says

    Trump meeting with video game bosses revives tenuous link to gun violence:

    Debate over connection between games and crime dates back to Columbine — but despite moral panic evidence doesn’t stack up

    Donald Trump will host executives from the video game industry at the White House on Thursday, resurrecting a debate over the link between violent video games and gun-related deaths in the aftermath of the Parkland high school shooting.

    […]

    Although the White House has provided few details on the meeting, Trump’s focus on the role of violence in entertainment signaled the president may be embracing a more conservative [sic] response to the Parkland shooting […].

    An ever more deranged non-approach would be more accurate.

    Each time there’s a school shooting in America, someone inevitably points the finger at video games.

    [… multiple examples…]

    There have been many studies and meta-analyses examining the issue, and none has shown a causal link between violent video games and violent behavior. The few studies that find a weak correlation between aggressive behavior and video games lack context, failing to highlight how other competitive activities such as team sports have the same impact.

    […]

    In Video games and violence are linked — but not the way Trump thinks, the author hypothesizes the toxic actions of some parts of the gaming community, such as gammergate (and points out Steve Bannon, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Breitbart benefited considerably from that hate-fest), are linked to actual acts of violence. The author, Chris Plante, “a founding editor at Polygon” (a “video game website”) concludes:

    […]
    What’s most unsettling about Trump’s instinct to target video games in the wake of gun violence is how it neglects any of this depth, and how tidily it aligns with the talking points of the National Rifle Association. Trump’s statement eerily echoes the words of NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, who, following the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting that claimed 28 lives, used video games as an alternative scapegoat, calling out a “callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people”.

    These words serve better as a concise description of the gun trade. […]

  117. says

    Clueless … and proud of it?

    […] Yesterday, Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) reportedly told a CBS News reporter, “I don’t have any clue who George Nader is.”

    At face value, that may not seem especially notable, except Mike Conaway is a member of the House Intelligence Committee — and he’s ostensibly helping lead the investigation into the Trump-Russia scandal. Even if he’d missed the front-page scoop in the New York Times, it stands to reason he’d know who George Nader is, simply by virtue of his own familiarity with the details of his own probe. […]

    CNN reported this morning, “Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is scheduled to be interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday, and he could be one of the last major witnesses to appear as part of the panel’s Russia investigation.”

    The Washington Post, meanwhile, added this week that the GOP-led House panel is preparing to move past the witnesses who’ve refused to answer questions, including former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, with the hopes of unveiling a final report “in the coming weeks,” despite the list of witnesses Democrats still want to call.

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that once the House Republicans’ report is ready, it’ll be about as credible as the already discredited “Nunes memo,” as prepared by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and his aides.

    Link

    From Jon Chait:

    […] If you’re getting the idea that maybe Conaway and his party aren’t utterly determined to uncover foul play between Moscow and Trump Tower, your suspicions are warranted. Conaway recently declared the investigation to be nearing its completion. “All investigations have a natural conclusion,” he explained. “As soon as we have everybody interviewed, we’ll start working on the report, we’ll get the report finalized, and we’ll move forward. Every investigation ought to have a conclusion, including this one. So we’re coming towards the end of it.”

    Investigations, you see, have a “natural” conclusion. It is out of his hands. And so while Conaway’s committee has not forced the witnesses to answer questions Democrats believe they should answer, or even learned the names of major figures in the underlying investigation, there’s no arguing with nature. Anyway, it’s not like they’re investigating something like Benghazi, which took place in 2012 and was still being investigated four years later in a fruitless attempt to establish that the Obama administration deliberately lied. […]

    Feckless and proud of it?

    Meanwhile, Republican members Bob Goodlatte and Trey Gowdy are calling for the appointment of a special counsel to pursue various debunked Republican theories that the FBI has done something wrong in its investigation of Trump. “We think this is a very serious matter regarding conduct by the FBI and by some in the Department of Justice that calls for the appointment of a special counsel who will have subpoena and prosecutorial powers,” exclaims Goodlatte.

    The House Republicans are winding down their pretend efforts to find out what Russia did in 2016 and who helped them, and ramping up their efforts to smear law enforcement.

    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/03/gop-russia-investigators-not-following-russia-news.html

  118. says

    Trump bumbles around and drops the ball … again … on trade issues:

    […] “China has been asked to develop a plan for the year of a One Billion Dollar reduction in their massive Trade Deficit with the United States. Our relationship with China has been a very good one, and we look forward to seeing what ideas they come back with. We must act soon!”

    Putting aside some grammatical concerns, this was a puzzling missive. The U.S. trade deficit with China last year was a little over $375 billion. We can certainly have a conversation about whether that’s good or bad, but for Trump to ask Beijing to “develop a plan” to shrink that deficit by $1 billion is practically silly — because even if China had an incentive to help the White House on this, what difference would it make to reduce the shortfall by a fraction of a percentage point?

    Indeed, after Trump’s strange tweet, it was only natural to wonder just how confused the president really is. Did the administration actually submit such a request? Was the $1 billion figure the result of some kind of negotiation? Was Trump just publishing random thoughts unrelated to any real policies?

    This morning, the answers came into focus. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Trump administration really did submit a request for ideas from China on how best to reduce the trade deficit, but the goal is a $100 billion reduction.

    Trump, in other words, was “off by $99 billion.” […]

    Link

  119. says

    Along with the Broidy information @ #175, we can add this to #116:

    “Trump Charges His Campaign Top Dollar To Rent A Basically Empty Trump Tower Office”:

    President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign last year spent over a half-million dollars for Trump Tower offices ― a choice that put donors’ money into the president’s pocket, but provided workspace for at most a handful of staff.

    According to a HuffPost analysis of Federal Election Commission filings, the monthly rent was more than what candidate Trump had been charging from June 2015 to March 2016, back when he was largely self-funding his campaign and when there were, on average, several dozen employees in the midtown Manhattan office.

    And while it is unclear why Trump’s re-election campaign has rented so much room for so few people, its decision to do so has helped fill office space that appears to have become much more difficult to rent out since Trump won the presidency.

    Neither the campaign nor the Trump Organization would say how many square feet the campaign is currently leasing or what it is paying per square foot. On the commercial market, however, the building has been forced to drop its prices dramatically.

    One Republican consultant close to the White House who is familiar with the office and its workload laughed when asked about the expense.

    “There’s nobody there. It’s like two guys,” the consultant said on the condition of anonymity to avoid angering the leader of his party. “There is no campaign. There is no operation. It’s just a joke.”

    Trump made a practice of spending donor money at properties that he owned from the time he locked up the GOP nomination in the spring of 2016….

    That habit continued into the first year of his presidency. With control of the Republican National Committee’s purse strings, Trump started to personally profit from contributions to that group as well.

    In 2017, the RNC spent $232,042 at Trump International Hotel in Washington, $3,000 at Trump’s golf club in Miami and $1,228 at Trump Café in Trump Tower. The RNC also took over the monthly $37,542 rent payment for the re-election campaign’s space at Trump Tower in mid-autumn, spending a total of $150,169 by the end of the year. In the same period, it began paying the salary for campaign staffer John Pence, nephew to Vice President Mike Pence, which amounted to $28,412 by year’s end.

    The RNC did not respond to questions about why it took over the latter expenses. The move did coincide with the party’s decision to no longer pay the president’s legal expenses incurred as a result of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia (the timing was first noted by CNBC)….

  120. says

    Clifford’s [Stormy Daniels’] current attorney, Michael Avenatti, said:

    President Trump hasn’t won anything relating to Ms. Clifford. [In reference to remarks by Sarah Huckabee Sanders that Trump had won the case in arbitration.]

    First of all, it does not appear as if he was even a party to the arbitration Ms. Sanders is referring to. How can you win something you’re not even a part of? Secondly, claiming that Mr. Trump ‘won’ at arbitration when there has been no hearing, no notice to Ms. Clifford, no opportunity given to her to respond, and no decision on the merits, is completely bogus.

  121. says

    SC @182, there’s the answer right there:

    The RNC did not respond to questions about why it took over the latter expenses [the monthly $37,542 rent payment for the re-election campaign’s space at Trump Tower]. The move did coincide with the party’s decision to no longer pay the president’s legal expenses incurred as a result of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia

    Trump is going to get his legal fees paid by the RNC one way or another. Con man.

  122. says

    There were several intriguing tidbits in the excerpt @ #176, but this stood out in a way:

    One reason Trump’s hoped-for meeting with the Russian president never materialized was his attention to another project. Trump was originally scheduled to spend two nights in Moscow—which would have yielded a wider window for a get-together with Putin. But Trump had decided to attend the celebration of evangelist Billy Graham’s 95th birthday on November 7 at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. In Russia, Trump told Goldstone that it had been necessary for him to show up at the Graham event: “There is something I’m planning down the road, and it’s really important.”

    Goldstone knew exactly what Trump was talking about: a run for the White House. Franklin Graham, the evangelist’s son, was an influential figure among religious conservatives. When Trump two years earlier was championing birtherism—the baseless conspiracy theory that Barack Obama had been born in Kenya and was ineligible to be president—Graham joined the birther bandwagon, raising questions about the president’s birth certificate. Appearing at this event and currying favor with Franklin Graham was a mandatory stop for Trump, if he was serious about seeking the Republican presidential nomination. And it paid off: Trump and his wife Melania were seated at the VIP table along with Rupert Murdoch and Sarah Palin. Franklin Graham later said that Trump was among those who “gave their hearts to Christ” that night.

    I think there’s a lot yet to be learned about Trump’s relations, including financial relations, with the Religious Right, and their relations with the Kremlin and the very political Orthodox Church in Russia.

    Also, this makes it abundantly clear that he was working on a presidential run at the time of the pageant in Moscow and that this was well known to those involved, including the Russians.

  123. says

    Update to #117 – “Electoral Commission demand end to ban on publishing Northern Irish Brexit campaign donor details”:

    The Electoral Commission has today demanded that the government allows it to publish details of donations to Northern Irish parties during the European referendum – including a £435,000 Brexit campaign donation to the DUP.

    The call came as MPs backed a measure which permits the elections regulator to publish details of major donations since July 2017, reneging on a previous commitment to make transparent the details of all major donations since January 2014.

    The measure means that while the Electoral Commission can now publish information about any donations since July last year – and in the future – it is still banned from sharing key information about donations to Northern Irish parties during a period which included the European referendum, when the DUP received £435,000 for their Brexit campaign from an unknown source via a secretive group in Glasgow whose chair set up a company in 2013 with the former head of the Saudi intelligence service. openDemocracy has previously revealed that the donation led to a record fine for failure to fully disclose where the money came from, but little more is known about it.

    The 2014-17 period also included two Westminster elections, two Northern Irish Assembly Elections, local elections, and a major scandal, known as “cash for ash”, where a DUP run department allowed hundreds of millions of pounds to be misspent. Today’s measure means that the Inquiry into the scandal, which has rocked Northern Irish politics, won’t be permitted to investigate whether the Democratic Unionist Party received donations from beneficiaries of the scheme….

    In its statement, the Electoral Commission points out that in 2014 “we wrote to all of the political parties in Northern Ireland to advise them that they should make clear to their donors that any donations received from January 2014 may be made public.”

  124. says

    Kris Kobach has turned a landmark voting rights case into a comedy of errors

    At one point in federal court Tuesday, Judge Julie Robinson gave Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and his co-counsel a lesson they should have learned before deciding to defend themselves against the ACLU in a landmark voting rights case that could affect the future of how Americans register to vote.

    “I’m not going to allow anybody to testify to a document that’s not in evidence,” she said. “Evidence 101. I’m not going to do it.”

    It wasn’t the only time the judge, a George W. Bush appointee, would explain to Kobach and his fellow attorneys basic legal concepts after they fumbled the rules of evidence and civil procedure. During the first two days of trial, Judge Robinson also walked Kobach’s team through how to phrase questions in cross examination, how to impeach a witness, and how to present new exhibits into the record.

    The Republican secretary of state, who is also running for governor, decided to represent himself in the ACLU’s litigation over his documentary proof of citizenship law. It’s unclear why Kobach decided to handle the case himself rather than being represented by the Kansas Attorney General’s office, which would have numerous attorneys skilled at trial advocacy, or another attorney with trial experience. [Dunning-Kruger]

    […] “It was really interesting to watch all the mistakes he was making in court,” said Davis Hammet, a 27-year-old Topeka resident who works for an organization that helps Kansans register to vote. “They’re representing the state of Kansas and the fact that Kansas is right now being embarrassed in a federal court by the people who are representing it is very unfortunate.” […]

  125. says

    Bad news from Mississippi:

    […] The state Senate passed a measure that would allow individuals with enhanced carry permits to sue public places that prevent them from carrying guns. The measure would apply to public and private elementary, middle, and high schools and public colleges and would allow these institutions to implement policies requiring training and mental health screenings for school staff who want to be armed on campus, the Clarion Ledger reported. […]

    Think Progress link

    Clarion Ledger link

    From the pushback:

    “Are you aware that the New York Police Department, which is the nation’s largest police force, average hit-rate is 18 percent for officers in a gunfight?” Sen. Barbara Blackmon (D) asked prior to the vote, […]

    “If these professionally trained police officers only have a 20 percent … rate of hitting their target, in an active shooter situation what would you surmise a teacher in the classroom’s rate would be?” she added. […]

    According to an analysis by the FBI, most mass shootings are stopped by unarmed people.

    2016 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that states with stricter firearm laws have fewer gun-related deaths. Mississippi, which has only five gun-related laws, ranks in the top four states with the highest firearm fatalities, at about 20 deaths per 100,000 people. By comparison, Massachusetts has more than 100 gun-related laws and is the state with the least gun deaths, at about four per 100,000 people.

  126. blf says

    Ireland’s government approves bill paving way for abortion referendum:

    […]
    The Irish government has finalised the wording of a national referendum on abortion that if passed would overturn a constitutional ban in place since the 1980s.

    Ministers formally approved a bill that paves the way for a referendum on abolishing the eighth amendment — the clause inserted into the constitution in 1983 that gives foetuses and women equal right to life.

    If Ireland votes in favour of repealing the amendment, the government has also committed to introducing legislation permitting unrestricted abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

    The referendum bill, agreed by the cabinet in Dublin on Thursday [today], International Women’s Day, will be debated in parliament over the next 24 hours, and full details will be published on Friday. […] The commission will then publish a report at the end of March setting out the exact wording of the referendum, which is intended to be held on 25 May.

    […]

    The Irish Times adds (Cabinet agrees to table legislation to hold an abortion referendum):

    [… Minister for Health Simon Harris] insisted the referendum campaign should focus on the question of repeal and not on what will replace it in legislation.

    Mr Harris said focusing on the future law was hypothetical and academic if the Eighth Amendment remained in the Constitution.

    “I expect people will ask the question ‘if I vote Yes, what will that mean?’ but equally, I hope people will ask ‘if I vote No, what does that mean?’.

    “If you vote No and the Eighth Amendment remains in the Constitution, we will not be able to address issues in relation to women who have had fatal foetal abnormalities in their pregnancy, in relation to women and girls who have been raped and abused in this country, to the fact that our daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, work colleagues could be using the abortion pill without medical supervision and we will not be able to do anything about the fact that women from every single county in Ireland travelled to the UK.

    “Abortion is a reality in Ireland.”

    “The question is: are you in favour of making that safe and legal?”

    […]

    Apparently, the push for a referendum came about in an interesting and instructive way, How 99 strangers in a Dublin hotel broke Ireland’s abortion deadlock:

    […]
    Ninety-nine random strangers, a North Dublin hotel and a lot of cups of tea and coffee — not exactly the stuff of political revolution.

    Yet little more than a year later, it appears that an unlikely assemblage of housewives, students, ex-teachers, truck drivers and others has brought Ireland to the brink of radical change to its abortion laws.

    They met as a Citizens’ Assembly at the end of 2016, a mix of pro-lifers, pro-choicers and undecideds whose views broadly reflected opinions in the wider Irish population.

    In all, it took five weekends. But at the end of it, they voted for change. In doing so, they did not just pave the way for an abortion referendum in May […]. They showed the world what democrats can do with a little imagination.

    In a world in which democracy desperately needs revitalisation and new ideas, innovators point to Ireland. They see the move to randomly select a jury to thrash out the issue before a public vote as a breakthrough moment.

    “Many people were concerned this would be a can-kicking exercise; that proved not to be the case,” says Colm O’Gorman, the executive director of Amnesty International Ireland.

    Disclaimer: I know Mr O’Gorman, having worked with him on a small AI fund-raising project. Nice guy, very dedicated.

    A referendum was scarcely imaginable when the idea of an assembly was first mooted in 2016.

    Back then, few politicians dared even raise the subject of a public vote, let alone voice support for abortion rights. To do so risked electoral oblivion […]

    The citizen’s assembly helped break the deadlock.

    “I think this issue, in Ireland, could never have gotten to the point we’re at today, were it not for the citizens’ assembly,” says Fine Gael’s deputy, Kate O’Connell. “I think we would have been years getting there, if we ever got there.”

    During five weekends of meetings over five months, much of it broadcast live on the internet, the jury of 99 citizens broke open taboos around sex and women’s reproductive health. Passionate speeches in favour of and against liberalising abortion laws were heard, including from medical, legal and ethical experts. They also witnessed audio testimonies by women who had faced crisis pregnancies.

    […]

    Proponents of citizens’ assemblies highlight their use of random selection to create representative samples of any given society. That contrasts with narrower, more elite gatherings of elected representatives. Supporters also vaunt the deliberative process that is cultivated, with members responding to what is presented and listening to others’ responses. That diversity of views, so often missing in elected parliaments, helps deepen collective understanding. Participants feel less pressure as there are no elections, and this in turn improves the quality of their decisions.

    In Ireland’s case, voters can access all the assembly submissions and recommendations before casting their ballots next May.

    Assembly participants certainly seem delighted to have taken part. Of more than half a dozen consulted, chosen from those who agreed to speak to the media, all were hugely positive.

    […]

    […] For Oliver Escobar, a lecturer in public policy at Edinburgh University and the co-director of What Works Scotland, Ireland’s effort was singular and significant.

    “It’s quite a milestone in the field of democratic innovations. This is the first time this has been part of everyday politics,” he says. Elements of representative, deliberative and direct democracy came together via parliament, the citizens’ assembly and referendum.

    “When these things are combined, you have a democratic system that’s more powerful.”

    Speculating, The process was probably helped by Ireland being a small (population-wise & physically) close-knit country with a tradition of passionate and witty oratory — which means both listening / comprehending, and speaking. (The bomb-throwing fanatics are largely in N.Ireland, and have been mostly neutered by the Good Friday peace agreement.)

  127. blf says

    A follow-up to @179, Culture crusaders: who’s who in Trump’s gun violence roundtable:

    […]
    As Donald Trump convenes a meeting Thursday to address violence in video games […] those in attendance will include a group that argues the Muppets drink too much, and another committed to exposing strident liberal bias on television.

    […]

    In attendance will be retired Lt Col Dave Grossman, the author of Assassination Generation: Video Games, Aggression, and the Psychology of Killing, a book that purports to reveal how violent video games have ushered in a new era of mass homicide. Grossman characterizes himself as an expert in killology.

    I presume he means “killogicalthinking” or similar. More on this übernutter below (after the Grauniad excerpts).

    Also present will be Melissa Henson, an advocate from the Parents Television Council [PTC], a group that has stood in staunch opposition to depictions of or allusions to sex and violence in entertainment.

    [… E]ven the Muppets have not escaped the PTC’s wrath. In 2015, the group released a study claiming that children who watched The Muppets were exposed to adult-themed content every three minutes and 38 seconds during the first four episodes.

    I added extra pillows under my kook-reading safety helmet and followed links from the Grauniad to the “study”. It’s as nutty as you’d probably expect. For example (slightly reformatted):

    ● Sexual Innuendo: Dan from Imagine Dragons asks Animal to go on the road with them, but Floyd says, “Life on the roads no good for Animal.” Animal agrees by saying, “Yeah, too many women, too many towns.”

    Geesh. I get the impression you could show teh PTC an empty coffee cup and they’d accuse you of an Alcohol Ref[erence] because it might have contained an Irish Coffee prepaired by a woman, and I just tpyoed, so I’m not sober (I’m completely sober, albeit I will be having some vin with dinner in awhile (hey, this is France!)).

    Back to the Grauniad’s article:

    Meanwhile, Brent Bozell, the founder of the conservative Media Research Center, will also participate. Bozell is a longtime critic of the gaming industry, but at the same time a staunch opponent of gun control.

    Somehow, Democrats isolate the inherent evil of a gun almost as if it’s self-shooting, while denying our violent media has any influence on these under-21 shooters, he once said.

    Much of Bozell’s work has been dedicated to proving widespread liberal bias in both the media and entertainment industry.

    […]

    The only lawmakers expected at Thursday’s meeting are Representatives Vicky Hartzler of Missouri and Martha Roby of Alabama, both Republicans who oppose new gun safety measures. Florida Senator Marco [“AR-15”] Rubio was also invited, but his office said he was unable to attend.

    I assume Senator AR-15 is ducking out, despite the meeting being rigged in hisNRA’s favour:

    Bravely bold Senator AR-15, rode forth from Mar-a-Lago.
    He was not afraid for others to die, O Brave Senator AR-15.
    He was not at all afraid them to be killed in nasty ways.
    Brave, brave, brave, brave Senator AR-15!

    Whilst neither RationalWiki nor the Encyclopedia of American Loons seem to have anything on Grossman (the killology übernutter), the name rang a bell, Lt Col Dave Grossman, the Killologist Training America’s Cops (date uncertain, 2016 or later):

    […]
    In America’s current debate over policing, many observers have expressed concerns about the “militarization” of cops […]. Grossman is not one of them. With increased dangers at home and the Posse Comitatus Act preventing the military from operating on US soil, he says, cops need to act more like soldiers. We are at war, Grossman likes to tell the people he trains. And our cops are the frontline troops in that war. You are the Delta Force. You are the Green Berets. It’s your job to put a piece of steel in your fist and kill those sons of bitches when they come to kill our kids.

    Cops fight violence, Grossman often says. What do they fight it with? Superior violence. Righteous violence. At a time when a growing number of police officials believe cops should be less eager to embrace the use of force, Grossman is teaching the opposite. Which prompts a few questions: Is an expert in killology the best person to be training domestic police right now? How did Grossman become so sought-after in the first place? And if our cops are really at war, as he believes, then whom, exactly, are they at war with?

    […]

    In his famous sheepdog essay, Grossman talked about how sheepdogs can sometimes accidentally scare the sheep. The sheepdog “looks a lot like the wolf,” he wrote. “He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, cannot, and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheepdog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed.”

    The system, in other words, depends on zero tolerance and accountability. Which, it could be argued, is exactly what’s missing nearly every time a cop kills an innocent citizen without repercussions.

    In 2015, 991 people were fatally shot by police officers […]; 94 of them were unarmed. Yet only 18 officers were charged in fatal on-duty shootings. Of all the recent high-profile police killings, Grossman sees almost none that he believes were unjustified. Take Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died after an illegal choke hold from the NYPD and whose last words were “I can’t breathe.” If you can talk, you can breathe, Grossman said. The guy had a heart condition. The lesson is, don’t fight cops when you have a heart condition. Or take Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old Cleveland boy who was fatally shot in a park while playing with a toy Airsoft gun. If you had a gun pointed at you . . .  Grossman says, sympathizing with the cop — who, for the record, did not have a gun pointed at him. That one’s borderline. I’m not giving you that one.

    When it comes to improving policing, Grossman strongly disagrees with prevailing theories, such as that cops who shoot unarmed black citizens may be falling prey to “implicit bias.” I don’t think there’s much of that, he said. The far greater bias in our society today is a bias against cops. In 10,000 TV shows and 500 movies, black people are almost never the bad guys. Name me one cop movie in the last 30 years that didn’t have a bad cop.

    […]

    Grossman also has written extensively about video games and the role they play in contributing to mass shootings. In his new book, Assassination Generation, he argues that first-person games like Grand Theft Auto — which he calls a cop-killing murder simulator — have trained millions of American children to be ruthless killers. We have raised the most vicious generation the world has ever seen, Grossman said […]. Thousands of Americans see video of ISIS cutting heads off and say, ‘I want a piece of that.’

    […] At one point he writes that experts who deny the link between video games and adolescent violence will someday be viewed as the moral equivalent of Holocaust deniers.

    […] Grossman highlights some practical steps parents can take to battle video-game-inspired violence: more sleep, less screen time, more family meals, more time in nature. But nowhere in his list of solutions does he mention the word guns. One anecdote is particularly telling: Grossman writes about a 16-year-old in Cleveland whose parents took away his copy of Halo 3 because they thought it was too violent. His father locked the game in a lockbox, which also held a 9mm handgun. The boy stole the key, took the game and the gun, and shot both his parents in the head. Grossman blames video games for the murder; he says nothing about the pistol.

    Grossman grew up around guns and nowadays fully embraces gun rights. He’s a popular speaker on the NRA circuit […]

    […] A big proponent of the good-guy-with-a-gun theory of crime prevention, he [says concealed carry] is a matter of urgent national security. He wants America to have more gun owners, with effective background checks and rigorous training.[] He’d also like to see some kind of mandatory national service, as in Switzerland or Israel. I want us to be a nation of marksmen, Grossman said. As long as we’re an armed nation, we’ll be a free nation. Israel has found the only possible answer: armed people everywhere.

    […]

    [At another meeting, t]his crowd was somewhat more skeptical than Grossman’s usual audience. “There is research,” [Ari] Emanuel countered. “In countries that don’t have guns, there is less violence, less murders. . . .”

    The seven most violent nations on the planet are all in Latin America and the Caribbean, Grossman said, and every one of them has those gun laws.

    “But you could make the other side of that argument, too,” argued Emanuel. “We can go to Israel. They don’t permit guns — only the military.”

    Oh, no. Grossman shook his head. That’s not accurate.

    “That is accurate,” said Emanuel.

    Grossman chuckled sarcastically. Yeah. Do some research on that one.

    “I have,” Emanuel said.

    Another man raised his hand. “Where can I find the studies on those 42 states [which instituted loose concealed-carry laws, and every time, crime is down]?”

    The 42 states? said Grossman. The NRA […] I think there’s some good info there.

    […]

    The Ari Emanuel quoted near the end is “the brother of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and one of Hollywood’s most powerful executives”. He is on record as supporting gun control measures (Mayor Bloomberg’s Anti-Gun Group Gets Some Hollywood Help, 2012). He also happens to be hair furor’s former agent, and is possibly an over-the-top Israel supporter. Mr Emanuel is broadly correct, and Grossman largely wrong, about Israel’s gun laws; Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge says:

    Gun laws in Israel are comprehensive despite soldiers being allowed to carry their service weapons on or off duty. Civilians must obtain a firearms licence to lawfully acquire, possess, sell or transfer firearms and ammunition.

    However, living or working occupied Palestine is deemed a reason for having a gun — unless you’re Palestinian, I assume.

    That doesn’t stop the NRA from lying, Israel dismisses NRA’s claims about guns laws (Dec-2012):

    School shootings were never common here, and Israel should not be invoked as ostensible proof of need for more weapons, experts say
    […]
    The National Rifle Association responded to [Sandy Hook] by resisting calls for tighter gun control and calling for armed guards and police at schools. On Sunday, the lobby’s chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, invoked his perception of the Israeli school security system to back his proposal.

    Israel had a whole lot of school shootings until they did one thing: They said, ‘We’re going to stop it,’ and they put armed security in every school and they have not had a problem since then, LaPierre said on the NBC News show “Meet the Press.”

    Israel never had “a whole lot of school shootings.” Authorities could only recall two in the past four decades.

    […]

      † Stuck-clock syndrome: Sans the lunacy about more moar more guns, concealed carry, &tc, “effective background checks and rigorous training” of wannabe and existing gun owners is — taking those words at face value (and not, e.g., some sort of NRA / gun-fetish code) — sensible.

  128. says

    Follow-up to comments 50, 51 89, 104, 119, 125, and 130.

    From The Telegraph:

    A security consultant who has worked for the company that compiled the controversial dossier on Donald Trump was close to the Russian double agent poisoned last weekend, it has been claimed. […]

    [Colonel Sergei] Skripal, who is in intensive care and fighting for his life after an assassination attempt on Sunday, was recruited by MI6 when he worked for the British embassy in Estonia, according to the FSB, the Russian intelligence agency.

    The Telegraph understands that Col Skripal moved to Salisbury in 2010 in a spy swap and became close to a security consultant employed by Christopher Steele, who compiled the Trump dossier. […]

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/03/07/poisoned-russian-spy-sergei-skripal-close-consultant-linked/F

  129. blf says

    (I just tried to post a very long comment which, for unclear reason — possibly too many links? — vanished, presumably eaten by poopyhead’s filter. Hence, I am trying to repost it in parts, this is Part 1.)

    A follow-up to @179, Culture crusaders: who’s who in Trump’s gun violence roundtable:

    […]
    As Donald Trump convenes a meeting Thursday to address violence in video games […] those in attendance will include a group that argues the Muppets drink too much, and another committed to exposing strident liberal bias on television.

    […]

    In attendance will be retired Lt Col Dave Grossman, the author of Assassination Generation: Video Games, Aggression, and the Psychology of Killing, a book that purports to reveal how violent video games have ushered in a new era of mass homicide. Grossman characterizes himself as an expert in killology.

    I presume he means “killogicalthinking” or similar. More on this übernutter below (after the Grauniad excerpts)in a latter Part.

    Also present will be Melissa Henson, an advocate from the Parents Television Council [PTC], a group that has stood in staunch opposition to depictions of or allusions to sex and violence in entertainment.

    [… E]ven the Muppets have not escaped the PTC’s wrath. In 2015, the group released a study claiming that children who watched The Muppets were exposed to adult-themed content every three minutes and 38 seconds during the first four episodes.

    I added extra pillows under my kook-reading safety helmet and followed links from the Grauniad to the “study”. It’s as nutty as you’d probably expect. For example (slightly reformatted):

    ● Sexual Innuendo: Dan from Imagine Dragons asks Animal to go on the road with them, but Floyd says, “Life on the roads no good for Animal.” Animal agrees by saying, “Yeah, too many women, too many towns.”

    Geesh. I get the impression you could show teh PTC an empty coffee cup and they’d accuse you of an Alcohol Ref[erence] because it might have contained an Irish Coffee prepaired by a woman, and I just tpyoed, so I’m not sober (I’m completely sober, albeit I will be having some vin with dinner in awhile (hey, this is France!)).

    Back to the Grauniad’s article:

    Meanwhile, Brent Bozell, the founder of the conservative Media Research Center, will also participate. Bozell is a longtime critic of the gaming industry, but at the same time a staunch opponent of gun control.

    Somehow, Democrats isolate the inherent evil of a gun almost as if it’s self-shooting, while denying our violent media has any influence on these under-21 shooters, he once said.

    Much of Bozell’s work has been dedicated to proving widespread liberal bias in both the media and entertainment industry.

    […]

    The only lawmakers expected at Thursday’s meeting are Representatives Vicky Hartzler of Missouri and Martha Roby of Alabama, both Republicans who oppose new gun safety measures. Florida Senator Marco [“AR-15”] Rubio was also invited, but his office said he was unable to attend.

    I assume Senator AR-15 is ducking out, despite the meeting being rigged in hisNRA’s favour:

    Bravely bold Senator AR-15, rode forth from Mar-a-Lago.
    He was not afraid for others to die, O Brave Senator AR-15.
    He was not at all afraid them to be killed in nasty ways.
    Brave, brave, brave, brave Senator AR-15!

  130. says

    Regarding Trump’s decision to discuss video games with “industry leaders” today:

    […]And even if this fleeting news item wasn’t a distraction, this is hardly the guest list for a serious conversation: There is no one here who seriously researches video games’ potential links to violence.

    There are three people who oversee the creation of video games (Zelnick, Altman, Vance), none in a directly creative role; a pro-games lobbyist (Gallagher), who would likely resist any kind of government crackdown; and three people who have spent years spouting the same line about how bad video games are (Bozell, Grossman, Henson).

    Whatever that amounts to—and it’s not clear what the White House would want to accomplish on this topic, or what it should, just that it would rather talk about this than almost any policy issue involving real weapons—it’s probably not a productive or useful discussion.

    Link

  131. blf says

    (I just tried to post a very long comment which, for unclear reason — possibly too many links? — vanished, presumably eaten by poopyhead’s filter. Hence, I am trying to repost it in parts, @194 is Part 1, this is Part 2.)

    Whilst neither RationalWiki nor the Encyclopedia of American Loons seem to have anything on Grossman (the killology übernutter), the name rang a bell, Lt Col Dave Grossman, the Killologist Training America’s Cops (date uncertain, 2016 or later):

    […]
    In America’s current debate over policing, many observers have expressed concerns about the “militarization” of cops […]. Grossman is not one of them. With increased dangers at home and the Posse Comitatus Act preventing the military from operating on US soil, he says, cops need to act more like soldiers. We are at war, Grossman likes to tell the people he trains. And our cops are the frontline troops in that war. You are the Delta Force. You are the Green Berets. It’s your job to put a piece of steel in your fist and kill those sons of bitches when they come to kill our kids.

    Cops fight violence, Grossman often says. What do they fight it with? Superior violence. Righteous violence. At a time when a growing number of police officials believe cops should be less eager to embrace the use of force, Grossman is teaching the opposite. Which prompts a few questions: Is an expert in killology the best person to be training domestic police right now? How did Grossman become so sought-after in the first place? And if our cops are really at war, as he believes, then whom, exactly, are they at war with?

    […]

    In his famous sheepdog essay, Grossman talked about how sheepdogs can sometimes accidentally scare the sheep. The sheepdog “looks a lot like the wolf,” he wrote. “He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, cannot, and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheepdog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed.”

    The system, in other words, depends on zero tolerance and accountability. Which, it could be argued, is exactly what’s missing nearly every time a cop kills an innocent citizen without repercussions.

    In 2015, 991 people were fatally shot by police officers […]; 94 of them were unarmed. Yet only 18 officers were charged in fatal on-duty shootings. Of all the recent high-profile police killings, Grossman sees almost none that he believes were unjustified. Take Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died after an illegal choke hold from the NYPD and whose last words were “I can’t breathe.” If you can talk, you can breathe, Grossman said. The guy had a heart condition. The lesson is, don’t fight cops when you have a heart condition. Or take Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old Cleveland boy who was fatally shot in a park while playing with a toy Airsoft gun. If you had a gun pointed at you . . .  Grossman says, sympathizing with the cop — who, for the record, did not have a gun pointed at him. That one’s borderline. I’m not giving you that one.

    When it comes to improving policing, Grossman strongly disagrees with prevailing theories, such as that cops who shoot unarmed black citizens may be falling prey to “implicit bias.” I don’t think there’s much of that, he said. The far greater bias in our society today is a bias against cops. In 10,000 TV shows and 500 movies, black people are almost never the bad guys. Name me one cop movie in the last 30 years that didn’t have a bad cop.

    […]

    Grossman also has written extensively about video games and the role they play in contributing to mass shootings. In his new book, Assassination Generation, he argues that first-person games like Grand Theft Auto — which he calls a cop-killing murder simulator — have trained millions of American children to be ruthless killers. We have raised the most vicious generation the world has ever seen, Grossman said […]. Thousands of Americans see video of ISIS cutting heads off and say, ‘I want a piece of that.’

    […] At one point he writes that experts who deny the link between video games and adolescent violence will someday be viewed as the moral equivalent of Holocaust deniers.

    […] Grossman highlights some practical steps parents can take to battle video-game-inspired violence: more sleep, less screen time, more family meals, more time in nature. But nowhere in his list of solutions does he mention the word guns. One anecdote is particularly telling: Grossman writes about a 16-year-old in Cleveland whose parents took away his copy of Halo 3 because they thought it was too violent. His father locked the game in a lockbox, which also held a 9mm handgun. The boy stole the key, took the game and the gun, and shot both his parents in the head. Grossman blames video games for the murder; he says nothing about the pistol.

    Grossman grew up around guns and nowadays fully embraces gun rights. He’s a popular speaker on the NRA circuit […]

    […] A big proponent of the good-guy-with-a-gun theory of crime prevention, he [says concealed carry] is a matter of urgent national security. He wants America to have more gun owners, with effective background checks and rigorous training.[] He’d also like to see some kind of mandatory national service, as in Switzerland or Israel. I want us to be a nation of marksmen, Grossman said. As long as we’re an armed nation, we’ll be a free nation. Israel has found the only possible answer: armed people everywhere.

    […]

    [At another meeting, t]his crowd was somewhat more skeptical than Grossman’s usual audience. “There is research,” [Ari] Emanuel countered. “In countries that don’t have guns, there is less violence, less murders. . . .”

    The seven most violent nations on the planet are all in Latin America and the Caribbean, Grossman said, and every one of them has those gun laws.

    “But you could make the other side of that argument, too,” argued Emanuel. “We can go to Israel. They don’t permit guns — only the military.”

    Oh, no. Grossman shook his head. That’s not accurate.

    “That is accurate,” said Emanuel.

    Grossman chuckled sarcastically. Yeah. Do some research on that one.

    “I have,” Emanuel said.

    Another man raised his hand. “Where can I find the studies on those 42 states [which instituted loose concealed-carry laws, and every time, crime is down]?”

    The 42 states? said Grossman. The NRA […] I think there’s some good info there.

    […]

      † Stuck-clock syndrome: Sans the lunacy about more moar more guns, concealed carry, &tc, “effective background checks and rigorous training” of wannabe and existing gun owners is — taking those words at face value (and not, e.g., some sort of NRA / gun-fetish code) — sensible.

  132. blf says

    (I just tried to post a very long comment which, for unclear reason — possibly too many links? — vanished, presumably eaten by poopyhead’s filter. Hence, I am trying to repost it in parts, @194 is Part 1, this is Part 2.)

    Whilst neither RationalWiki nor the Encyclopedia of American Loons seem to have anything on Grossman (the killology übernutter), the name rang a bell, Lt Col Dave Grossman, the Killologist Training America’s Cops (date uncertain, 2016 or later):

    […]
    In America’s current debate over policing, many observers have expressed concerns about the “militarization” of cops […]. Grossman is not one of them. With increased dangers at home and the Posse Comitatus Act preventing the military from operating on US soil, he says, cops need to act more like soldiers. We are at war, Grossman likes to tell the people he trains. And our cops are the frontline troops in that war. You are the Delta Force. You are the Green Berets. It’s your job to put a piece of steel in your fist and kill those sons of bitches when they come to kill our kids.

    Cops fight violence, Grossman often says. What do they fight it with? Superior violence. Righteous violence. At a time when a growing number of police officials believe cops should be less eager to embrace the use of force, Grossman is teaching the opposite. Which prompts a few questions: Is an expert in killology the best person to be training domestic police right now? How did Grossman become so sought-after in the first place? And if our cops are really at war, as he believes, then whom, exactly, are they at war with?

    […]

    In his famous sheepdog essay, Grossman talked about how sheepdogs can sometimes accidentally scare the sheep. The sheepdog “looks a lot like the wolf,” he wrote. “He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, cannot, and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheepdog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed.”

    The system, in other words, depends on zero tolerance and accountability. Which, it could be argued, is exactly what’s missing nearly every time a cop kills an innocent citizen without repercussions.

    In 2015, 991 people were fatally shot by police officers […]; 94 of them were unarmed. Yet only 18 officers were charged in fatal on-duty shootings. Of all the recent high-profile police killings, Grossman sees almost none that he believes were unjustified. Take Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died after an illegal choke hold from the NYPD and whose last words were “I can’t breathe.” If you can talk, you can breathe, Grossman said. The guy had a heart condition. The lesson is, don’t fight cops when you have a heart condition. Or take Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old Cleveland boy who was fatally shot in a park while playing with a toy Airsoft gun. If you had a gun pointed at you . . .  Grossman says, sympathizing with the cop — who, for the record, did not have a gun pointed at him. That one’s borderline. I’m not giving you that one.

    When it comes to improving policing, Grossman strongly disagrees with prevailing theories, such as that cops who shoot unarmed black citizens may be falling prey to “implicit bias.” I don’t think there’s much of that, he said. The far greater bias in our society today is a bias against cops. In 10,000 TV shows and 500 movies, black people are almost never the bad guys. Name me one cop movie in the last 30 years that didn’t have a bad cop.

    […]

    Grossman also has written extensively about video games and the role they play in contributing to mass shootings. In his new book, Assassination Generation, he argues that first-person games like Grand Theft Auto — which he calls a cop-killing murder simulator — have trained millions of American children to be ruthless killers. We have raised the most vicious generation the world has ever seen, Grossman said […]. Thousands of Americans see video of ISIS cutting heads off and say, ‘I want a piece of that.’

    […] At one point he writes that experts who deny the link between video games and adolescent violence will someday be viewed as the moral equivalent of Holocaust deniers.

    […] Grossman highlights some practical steps parents can take to battle video-game-inspired violence: more sleep, less screen time, more family meals, more time in nature. But nowhere in his list of solutions does he mention the word guns. One anecdote is particularly telling: Grossman writes about a 16-year-old in Cleveland whose parents took away his copy of Halo 3 because they thought it was too violent. His father locked the game in a lockbox, which also held a 9mm handgun. The boy stole the key, took the game and the gun, and shot both his parents in the head. Grossman blames video games for the murder; he says nothing about the pistol.

    Grossman grew up around guns and nowadays fully embraces gun rights. He’s a popular speaker on the NRA circuit […]

    […] A big proponent of the good-guy-with-a-gun theory of crime prevention, he [says concealed carry] is a matter of urgent national security. He wants America to have more gun owners, with effective background checks and rigorous training.[] He’d also like to see some kind of mandatory national service, as in Switzerland or Israel. I want us to be a nation of marksmen, Grossman said. As long as we’re an armed nation, we’ll be a free nation. Israel has found the only possible answer: armed people everywhere.

    […]

    [At another meeting, t]his crowd was somewhat more skeptical than Grossman’s usual audience. “There is research,” [Ari] Emanuel countered. “In countries that don’t have guns, there is less violence, less murders. . . .”

    The seven most violent nations on the planet are all in Latin America and the Caribbean, Grossman said, and every one of them has those gun laws.

    “But you could make the other side of that argument, too,” argued Emanuel. “We can go to Israel. They don’t permit guns — only the military.”

    Oh, no. Grossman shook his head. That’s not accurate.

    “That is accurate,” said Emanuel.

    Grossman chuckled sarcastically. Yeah. Do some research on that one.

    “I have,” Emanuel said.

    Another man raised his hand. “Where can I find the studies on those 42 states [which instituted loose concealed-carry laws, and every time, crime is down]?”

    The 42 states? said Grossman. The NRA […] I think there’s some good info there.

    […]

      † Stuck-clock syndrome: Sans the lunacy about more moar more guns, concealed carry, &tc, “effective background checks and rigorous training” of wannabe and existing gun owners is — taking those words at face value (and not, e.g., some sort of NRA / gun-fetish code) — sensible.

  133. says

    Kellyanne Conway recently got in trouble for using her position in the White House for political purposes. (See SC’s comment 60.)

    She was not punished because Trump is the guy in charge of disciplining people for violations of the Hatch Act.

    Kellyanne Conway will appear with GOP candidate Rick Saccone today as Saccone campaigns to represent Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District.

  134. says

    We’ve talked before about the Sinclair Broadcast Group. Here’s an update:

    Sinclair Broadcast Group is going to the next level with its quest to Foxify—or just plain Trumpify—local news. The far-right management of the company, which owns or operates 173 local television stations, is requiring its local anchors to read a statement decrying fake news and assuring viewers of Sinclair’s “commitment to factual reporting.” […]

    […] “The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media,” the script says. “More alarming, national media outlets are publishing these same fake stories without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the national media are using their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’ … This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.”

    Then the anchors are supposed to strike a more positive tone and say that their local station pursues the truth. “We understand Truth is neither politically ‘left or right.’ Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.”

    After CNN started asking questions, Sinclair changed the wording from “national media outlets” to “some media outlets.” Coming from a company that’s consistently worked to inject its right-wing agenda into its reporting, though, this is still staggeringly dishonest. It’s the new version of Fox News’s claim to be “fair and balanced” while pushing an agenda that’s explicitly political and even partisan.

    Local news anchors aren’t too happy about being required to deliver the statement:

    “This is so manipulative.” […]

    “At my station, everyone was uncomfortable doing it,” a local anchor said. The person insisted on anonymity because they believed they would be fired for speaking out. […]

    “I felt like a POW recording a message,” one of the anchors said.

    […] Sinclair is making it pretty clear that it doesn’t care about its local anchors on this one. Not only is management dictating how the propaganda spots are produced down to the colors the anchors will wear, but all viewer feedback on whether Sinclair’s coverage is unfair will bypass local stations and go straight to corporate.

    Link

  135. says

    From Florida State Representative Elizabeth Porter:

    We’ve been told that we need to listen to the children and do what the children ask. Are there any children on this floor? Are there any children making laws? Do we allow the children to tell us that we should pass a law that says ’no homework’? Or you finish high school at the age of 12 just because they want it so? No. The adults make the laws because we have the age, we have the wisdom, and we have the experience.

    Response from Emma González:

    Sorry if you think we want you to pass laws protecting us “just because we feel like it”

    From Jen Hayden:

    Thoughts and prayers on your political career, Rep. Porter.

  136. says

    Taking a closer look at Michael Cohen’s mistakes:

    […] Cohen filed the complaint with the arbiter only on behalf of his shell company, Essential Consultants, LLC. But the agreement between Trump, [Stormy] Daniels, and Essential Consultants only provides for arbitration between Trump and Daniels. In order to use an arbitration process, all parties must agree. Even if you accept the agreement as valid, Daniels did not agree to arbitration with Essential Consultants.

    It’s all spelled out in Section 5.2 of the original agreement. […]

    Note that this provision provides for a “voluntary system of alternative dispute resolution” between “DD on the one hand and PP on the other hand.” (DD is a pseudonym for Donald Trump and PP is a pseudonym for Stormy Daniels.) It does not talk about arbitration rights for “EC,” the shell corporation set up by Michael Cohen. Yet, it was “EC” that is listed as the claimant in the arbitration.

    This could make the arbitration decision, which was obtained “ex parte,” or without the presence of Daniels or her representatives, invalid.

    It’s one of a series of basic mistakes that Cohen has made in his efforts to protect Trump, his client. Notably, the secret agreement, which is no longer secret, acknowledges the existence of “still photos” documenting the relationship between Daniels and Trump.

    The agreement also states, in Section 4.4, that “substantial effort and expense have been dedicated to limit the efforts of the press, other media, and the public to learn of personal and business affairs involving [Trump].” […]

    Link

  137. blf says

    (I just tried to post a very long comment which, for unclear reason — possibly too many links? — vanished, presumably eaten by poopyhead’s filter. Hence, I am trying to repost it in parts, Part 1 is @194, this is Part 2 (and seems to be the Part with the problem, so there are some redactions).)

    Whilst neither RationalWiki nor the Encyclopedia of American Loons seem to have anything on Grossman (the killology übernutter), the name rang a bell, Lt Col Dave Grossman, the Killologist Training America’s Cops (date uncertain, 2016 or later):

    […]
    In America’s current debate over policing, many observers have expressed concerns about the “militarization” of cops […]. Grossman is not one of them. With increased dangers at home and the Posse Comitatus Act preventing the military from operating on US soil, he says, cops need to act more like soldiers. We are at war, Grossman likes to tell the people he trains. And our cops are the frontline troops in that war. You are the Delta Force. You are the Green Berets. It’s your job to put a piece of steel in your fist and kill those sons of b[redacted] when they come to kill our kids.

    Cops fight violence, Grossman often says. What do they fight it with? Superior violence. Righteous violence. At a time when a growing number of police officials believe cops should be less eager to embrace the use of force, Grossman is teaching the opposite. Which prompts a few questions: Is an expert in killology the best person to be training domestic police right now? How did Grossman become so sought-after in the first place? And if our cops are really at war, as he believes, then whom, exactly, are they at war with?

    […]

    In his famous sheepdog essay, Grossman talked about how sheepdogs can sometimes accidentally scare the sheep. The sheepdog “looks a lot like the wolf,” he wrote. “He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, cannot, and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheepdog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed.”

    The system, in other words, depends on zero tolerance and accountability. Which, it could be argued, is exactly what’s missing nearly every time a cop kills an innocent citizen without repercussions.

    In 2015, 991 people were fatally shot by police officers […]; 94 of them were unarmed. Yet only 18 officers were charged in fatal on-duty shootings. Of all the recent high-profile police killings, Grossman sees almost none that he believes were unjustified. Take Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died after an illegal choke hold from the NYPD and whose last words were “I can’t breathe.” If you can talk, you can breathe, Grossman said. The guy had a heart condition. The lesson is, don’t fight cops when you have a heart condition. Or take Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old Cleveland boy who was fatally shot in a park while playing with a toy Airsoft gun. If you had a gun pointed at you . . .  Grossman says, sympathizing with the cop — who, for the record, did not have a gun pointed at him. That one’s borderline. I’m not giving you that one.

    When it comes to improving policing, Grossman strongly disagrees with prevailing theories, such as that cops who shoot unarmed black citizens may be falling prey to “implicit bias.” I don’t think there’s much of that, he said. The far greater bias in our society today is a bias against cops. In 10,000 TV shows and 500 movies, black people are almost never the bad guys. Name me one cop movie in the last 30 years that didn’t have a bad cop.

    […]

    Grossman also has written extensively about video games and the role they play in contributing to mass shootings. In his new book, Assassination Generation, he argues that first-person games like Grand Theft Auto — which he calls a cop-killing murder simulator — have trained millions of American children to be ruthless killers. We have raised the most vicious generation the world has ever seen, Grossman said […]. Thousands of Americans see video of ISIS cutting heads off and say, ‘I want a piece of that.’

    […] At one point he writes that experts who deny the link between video games and adolescent violence will someday be viewed as the moral equivalent of Holocaust deniers.

    […] Grossman highlights some practical steps parents can take to battle video-game-inspired violence: more sleep, less screen time, more family meals, more time in nature. But nowhere in his list of solutions does he mention the word guns. One anecdote is particularly telling: Grossman writes about a 16-year-old in Cleveland whose parents took away his copy of Halo 3 because they thought it was too violent. His father locked the game in a lockbox, which also held a 9mm handgun. The boy stole the key, took the game and the gun, and shot both his parents in the head. Grossman blames video games for the murder; he says nothing about the pistol.

    Grossman grew up around guns and nowadays fully embraces gun rights. He’s a popular speaker on the NRA circuit […]

    […] A big proponent of the good-guy-with-a-gun theory of crime prevention, he [says concealed carry] is a matter of urgent national security. He wants America to have more gun owners, with effective background checks and rigorous training.[] He’d also like to see some kind of mandatory national service, as in Switzerland or Israel. I want us to be a nation of marksmen, Grossman said. As long as we’re an armed nation, we’ll be a free nation. Israel has found the only possible answer: armed people everywhere.

    […]

    [At another meeting, t]his crowd was somewhat more skeptical than Grossman’s usual audience. “There is research,” [Ari] Emanuel countered. “In countries that don’t have guns, there is less violence, less murders. . . .”

    The seven most violent nations on the planet are all in Latin America and the Caribbean, Grossman said, and every one of them has those gun laws.

    “But you could make the other side of that argument, too,” argued Emanuel. “We can go to Israel. They don’t permit guns — only the military.”

    Oh, no. Grossman shook his head. That’s not accurate.

    “That is accurate,” said Emanuel.

    Grossman chuckled sarcastically. Yeah. Do some research on that one.

    “I have,” Emanuel said.

    Another man raised his hand. “Where can I find the studies on those 42 states [which instituted loose concealed-carry laws, and every time, crime is down]?”

    The 42 states? said Grossman. The NRA […] I think there’s some good info there.

    […]

  138. blf says

    (I just tried to post a very long comment which, for unclear reasons — possibly too many links? — vanished, presumably eaten by poopyhead’s filter. Hence, I am trying to repost it in parts, Part 1 is @194, Part 2 is @200, and this is the last, Part 3.)

    The Ari Emanuel quoted in the excerpt near the end of @200(Part 2) is “the brother of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and one of Hollywood’s most powerful executives”. He is on record as supporting gun control measures (Mayor Bloomberg’s Anti-Gun Group Gets Some Hollywood Help, 2012). He also happens to be hair furor’s former agent, and is possibly an over-the-top Israel supporter. Mr Emanuel is broadly correct, and killology übernutter Grossman largely wrong, about Israel’s gun laws; Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge says:

    Gun laws in Israel are comprehensive despite soldiers being allowed to carry their service weapons on or off duty. Civilians must obtain a firearms licence to lawfully acquire, possess, sell or transfer firearms and ammunition.

    However, living or working occupied Palestine is deemed a reason for having a gun — unless you’re Palestinian, I assume.

    That doesn’t stop the NRA from lying, Israel dismisses NRA’s claims about guns laws (Dec-2012):

    School shootings were never common here, and Israel should not be invoked as ostensible proof of need for more weapons, experts say
    […]
    The National Rifle Association responded to [Sandy Hook] by resisting calls for tighter gun control and calling for armed guards and police at schools. On Sunday, the lobby’s chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, invoked his perception of the Israeli school security system to back his proposal.

    Israel had a whole lot of school shootings until they did one thing: They said, ‘We’re going to stop it,’ and they put armed security in every school and they have not had a problem since then, LaPierre said on the NBC News show “Meet the Press.”

    Israel never had “a whole lot of school shootings.” Authorities could only recall two in the past four decades.

    […]

    Hair furor only uses the best! And then ignores them — well, all but Putin…

  139. blf says

    Trump must make known ‘deadly’ changes to US drone policy: NGOs (my emboldening):

    US drone strikes in Iraq and Syria shot up 50 percent while civilian deaths rose 215 percent from 2016 to 2017.

    A group of nongovernmental organisations called on the Trump administration to clarify its policy on drone use, saying they are concerned about reported changes to US rules and a lack of transparency in the decision-making process.

    “We are deeply concerned that the reported new policy, combined with this administration’s reported dramatic increase in lethal operations in Yemen and Somalia, will add to an increase in unlawful killings and in civilian casualties,” a joint statement said.

    The organisations include Amnesty International, the US-based Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Watch, the ACLU and others.

    President Donald Trump signed the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act in December. The act funds the US military but also requires Trump to make known to Congress any changes to previous drone policies by March 12.

    The statement detailed alleged changes in policy, which are reported to have been made to Obama-era guidelines but have not been confirmed by the current government.

    […]

    While watchdog groups try to keep track of drone attacks, it is often difficult to confirm circumstances or death tolls in war-torn areas.

    US armed forces and intelligence services have been accused of hiding details and doctoring numbers to make drone strikes appear more accurate.

    Former CIA director John Brennan said in June 2011 there hasn’t been a single collateral death in Pakistan for more than a year. The claim was widely disputed.

    Drone policy, including who and where the president can kill, “should not remain hidden in the shadows”, said [head of the assassinations programme at Reprieve, Jennifer] Gibson.

  140. says

    Follow-up to comment 188.

    As part of the case he is presenting to court, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach used a spreadsheet that showed five alleged non-citizens voting in the last two decades, (in the second most populous county).

    […] Those alleged non-citizen voters cast collectively about 10-12 votes, the earliest in 2004, […] that’s out of 1.3 million votes cast in the relevant time period in the county. Sedgwick County accounts for a little over one sixth of Kansas’ population.

    Yet Kobach is using those examples to defend his proof-of-citizenship requirement, which was implemented in 2013. An appeals court has said Kobach must prove that non-citizen voting is a “substantial” problem in Kansas. So the spreadsheet […] is key to Kobach’s argument.

    The ACLU, which is representing some of the challengers, sought to show that the list was inflated.

    The spreadsheet details 38 cases where non-citizens purportedly voted, registered to vote or attempted to register to vote. Eighteen successfully registered before the law was enacted, 16 were blocked by the law, and four registered after the law was temporarily blocked in 2016, the spreadsheet alleges. […]

    Lehman [Tabitha Lehman, the county’s election commissioner] testified that her office started collecting the data systematically in 2013, and that she would send the information about each instance to the secretary of state’s office, which assembled the spread sheet. […]

    Many of the people cited on the spreadsheet as non-citizens had registered at the DMV, where people getting drivers licenses or state IDs are also asked if they want to register to vote.

    […] an ACLU attorney representing the challengers noted that in some cases the non-citizens never voted, even after being registered for seven, 12, and even 18 years. Some of those people only discovered that they had been registered at their naturalization ceremony, when they sought to register, the testimony revealed. [….]

    A line from Kobach’s questioning seemed intended to suggest that what Lehman’s office had helped the Secretary of State’s office record was only the tip of the iceberg. He asked Lehman if her predecessor collected the non-citizen registration. Not that she knew of, she said. He asked if she was aware of other counties that collected their own data or sent election staff to naturalization ceremonies. She said she was not aware to both questions.

    Link

    That’s Kobach working really hard to make a mountain out of a molehill.

  141. blf says

    Al Jazeera rebuts foreign agent accusations:

    Qatar-based broadcaster calls on US politicians to uphold freedom of speech and media enshrined in the US Constitution.
    […]
    Josh Gottheimer and Lee Zeldin, two US legislators, have co-authored a letter claiming that Doha-based Al Jazeera is used to incite violence and broadcast hateful, extremist content.

    […]

    Foreign Agent Registration Act, or FARA, is a little-enforced 1938 US law that was originally passed to combat Nazi propaganda.

    […]

    Robert Mueller […] has charged two former Trump campaign officials with violating FARA.

    In November, Russia-backed media RT and other outlets were required to register under the law.

    […]

    “Don’t shoot the messenger, journalism is not a crime” [Al Jazeera Media Network said].

    Lawmakers Push for US Review of Al Jazeera as Foreign Agent:

    A bipartisan group of US lawmakers is calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate whether Al Jazeera, the Middle Eastern news outlet chartered by the Qatari government, should register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent.

    Al Jazeera directly undermines American interests, according to a letter sent by Representatives Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Democrat; Lee Zeldin, a New York Republican; and 16 other House members. Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, also signed the letter. The lawmakers added that the State Department has determined the news organization, which is headquartered in Doha, is state controlled.

    […]

    The lawmakers also are asking the Justice Department to investigate reports that Al Jazeera infiltrated nonprofit organizations. Their letter calls its broadcasts anti-American, anti-Semitic, and anti-Israel and urges regulators to scrutinize the network to determine whether it violates US law.

    […]

    According to an Israeli newspaper — which does not appear to be creditable (see below) — US Congress: Al Jazeera is a foreign agent (English, and a very misleading title!):

    […]
    The demand comes after Al Jazeera created a documentary on the Israeli lobby in the US.

    […]

    According to The Washington Free Beacon, Al Jazeera made a secret effort last year to spy on the American Jewish community as part of a documentary and claims will expose Jewish control of the media. The network has also been sending letters to a slew of Jewish organizations and pro-Israel individuals asking them to comment on what appears to be secret recordings.

    […]

    Oops! Citing Teh Washington Free Beacon as your source rather badly damages your creditability.

  142. says

    As part of his announcement of the new tariffs, Trump had workers come to the microphone and speak. After one steelworker told his story, Trump said that the guy’s father “is looking down” and is “proud.” The guy’s father is still alive.

    Meanwhile, Senator Jeff Flake is drafting a bill to block the tariffs from taking effect:

    [The tariffs are] a marriage of two lethal poisons to economic growth – protectionism and uncertainty. […] Congress cannot be complicit as the administration courts economic disaster. I will immediately draft and introduce legislation to nullify these tariffs, and I urge my colleagues to pass it before this exercise in protectionism inflicts any more damage on the economy.

    Trump’s announcement did include a lot of uncertainty. Some tariffs, he said, will depend on the outcome of NAFTA negotiations. And Trump also said, “I’ll have a right to go up or down depending on the country. We’re going to be very flexible. We’re going to see who is treating us fairly.” In other words, it’s all up to how Trump feels that day. And, of course, Trump still sees himself as a king that can rule by fiat.

    From Paul Ryan:

    I disagree with this action and fear its unintended consequences. We will continue to urge the administration to narrow this policy so that it is focused only on those countries and practices that violate trade law.

  143. says

    Manfort update:

    Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort pleaded not guilty Thursday to the federal grand jury indictment brought against him in Virginia in his first appearance in that case. The trial for the case is set to begin July 10.

    Manafort will continue to be on home confinement with electronic monitoring. He can leave the house to consult with his lawyers, go to the doctor and go to church. Because Manafort’s attorney’s have declined to combine the two cases brought against him, Manafort will be forced to wear two monitoring devices.

    “He wears two bracelets now,” the judge overseeing the case, Judge T.S. Ellis III told the courtroom as he finalized Manafort’s conditions of release. […]

    Link

  144. says

    Who will replace Gary Cohn? Speculation is that his replacement will be Larry Kudlow, a CNBC cable news personality who Trump “likes to watch on TV.”

    Description of Kudlow:

    Kudlow is a fanatical adherent of supply-side economics. While many conservative economists believe that, all things being equal, lower tax rates can produce faster growth, Kudlow believes it with a religious intensity. No serious body of economic work could substantiate his beliefs. Indeed, even hard-core conservatives in academia — like Greg Mankiw, a Republican economist with a deep moral disdain for progressive taxation — have nonetheless described the arguments used by Kudlow as those of “charlatans and cranks.”

    Quoted text above is from New York Magazine.

  145. says

    All the best people.

    A senior adviser at the Department of Housing and Urban Development repeatedly promoted a false conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman participated in a Satanic ritual […]

    John Gibbs, who has worked as a senior adviser since last August, tweeted multiple times about a conspiracy theory that John Podesta participated in a Satanic ritual involving bodily fluids. […]

    In one instance, Gibbs quote tweeted a comment that Clinton was losing support among black voters because Podesta took part in “Satanic #SpiritCooking,” and added “True, true, and true,” […]

    Gibbs’ role at HUD involves boosting economic development efforts for low-income individuals.

    Multiple appointees to agencies during the Trump administration have been found to have made racist comments or promoted conspiracy theories before joining the administration, including Carl Higbie, Leandro Rizzuto Jr. […]

    Link

  146. says

    From Senator John McCain:

    […] Trump’s decision to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports will not protect America. Reminiscent of failed protectionist trade policies of the past, this decision will harm the American economy, hurt American workers, and damage relations with America’s allies and partners.

    […] Trump compounded that mistake by forfeiting the opportunity to take targeted action to hold China accountable for its behavior in international trade. Instead, he chose to adopt sweeping tariffs that will punish our most important allies and partners all around the world.

    This strategic mistake will only succeed in undermining the credibility of American leadership on free and open trade.

    There is a better way. America should engage on trade from a place of leadership, demonstrating confidence and strength. We should champion a positive free trade agenda to break down trade barriers and open new markets for American companies.

    From the AFL-CIO:

    Tariffs won’t start a trade war, there’s 435 of them in place today to fight trade cheaters. People may not like how […] Trump rolled these out, but I applaud him for trying.

  147. says

    Kelda Roys is a Democratic woman running for governor of Wisconsin. She wants to take Scott Walker’s job. During her campaign ad, she matter of factly breastfeeds her baby. Wonkette link

  148. blf says

    Hit him again: Texas judge rebuked for repeated electric shocks to man in court:

    Defendant’s conviction reversed after judge’s use of 50,000-volt stun belt declared unconstitutional

    A Texas judge has been rebuked after he ordered a defendant to be shocked repeatedly with a 50,000-volt stun belt for failing to answer his questions.

    The remote-controlled bands usually wrap around the legs or waist and are occasionally deployed to immobilize prisoners who turn violent or try to escape, despite ethical and safety concerns.

    Terry Lee Morris was not violent during his 2014 trial in Tarrant County, near Dallas. But George Gallagher, the judge, grew vexed when Morris demanded that Gallagher recuse himself.

    Are you going to follow the rules? Gallagher asked.

    Morris replied: “I have a lawsuit pending against you.”

    Hit him, Gallagher told a bailiff, who pressed the button to activate the belt.

    Are you going to behave? Gallagher then asked Morris, who responded, “I have a history of mental illness.”

    “Hit him again,” the judge said.

    Morris […] was zapped once more after attempting to fire his attorney. But an appeals court […] ordered a new trial on the basis that the judge was using the belt unconstitutionally, to “enforce decorum” rather than to subdue a dangerous man.

    Justice Yvonne Rodriguez wrote that “electrocuting a defendant until he provides the judge with behavior he likes” is an abuse of power. The court added that since Morris had been removed from the courtroom, he was too scared to return and refused to leave his cell, and therefore his constitutional right to attend his own trial was impaired.

    […]

    Morris’ trial attorney, Bill Ray, told Texas Lawyer, which first reported [registration required] the story, that he had not objected to the use of the belt because his client had acted like a loaded cannon ready to go off.

    […]

    No idea what sanctions have been applied to “Judge” George Gallagher, the (unnamed) bailiff who administered the torture, or “Attorney” Bill Ray, who who failed on multiple counts (calming his client down (presuming what Ray said is true), protecting his client,…).

  149. blf says

    And in Iran, the misogynistic kooks get their panties all in a twist, The un-Islamic girls’ dance that shocked Iranian hardliners:

    A video of girls dancing on a stage, while a crowd cheers them on, has caused an uproar in Iran. This dance took place at an event organized by the Tehran municipality, with the mayor in attendance. So why the fuss? Hardliners have criticized the reformist mayor Ali Najafi for allowing an immoral ceremony where women danced in public.

    In Iran, sharia law dictates that grown women — an age that is set at nine years old — are forbidden to dance in front of anyone but their husbands.

    […]

    Tehran’s mayor responded by posting a photo of the girls on social media, in which it is clear that they are very young. He told Iranian media that the girls were only 8 years old, so that nothing un-Islamic had occurred. […]

    Hardliners faced a severe backlash on social media, with users attacking them for criticizing the event.

    [(Translation.)] It’s not just shameful that you are against happiness in this country, it’s shameful that you have such a filthy mind when you look at these children — you should be ashamed to face your own kids

    There is no love lost between Tehran’s mayor and hardliners. On January 14, on his 100th day in office, Najafi published a report on the financial situation of the Tehran municipality that revealed illegal actions by his conservative predecessor Bagher Ghalibaf, including abuse of power, falsified accounting, embezzlement, and fictitious transactions. Since then, Najafi has become a target of attacks by hardliners.

    […]

    The children’s dance was an International Women’s Day event.

  150. says

    Lynna @ #193 – Luke Harding, author of Collusion who’s met with Steele, tweeted: “The @Telegraph story claiming a link between Sergei #Skripal and Christopher Steele’s company Orbis is wrong, I understand. Skripal had nothing to do with Trump dossier. Nor did unnamed ‘security consultant’ ever work for Orbis.”

    AP, a few hours ago: “BREAKING: UK police update total number of people treated as a result of former Russian spy’s poisoning to roughly 21.”

  151. says

    Trump is announcing some major announcement re North Korea at the White House momentarily. It appears it’s not even going to be US officials – who don’t really seem to know what’s going on – but South Korean officials making the announcement. Even if there’s some substance to it, which is possible, this announcement looks like a spectacle to distract from Daniels, Mueller, and possibly some Russia news they know is coming.

  152. blf says

    Bannon predicts turmoil and more right-wing populist success in Europe:

    Former Trump strategist trying out new role as godfather of European right
    […]
    Once again an anti-establishment vote [Italy] and once again the media is completely gobsmacked. They looked at France and thought this populist surge was over. It’s not over, it’s just beginning, Bannon told the audience of 1400 in [Zürich, Switzerland] on Tuesday night.

    Bannon jumped from country to country in his analysis of the symbiosis happening in the right-wing movement, namechecking Poland, Czech Republic and Germany, and heaping praise on the Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, whom he likened to Trump, calling him a great patriot and a great hero.

    Earlier on Tuesday, Bannon reportedly held a private meeting in a Zurich hotel with Alice Weidel, co-leader of Germany’s far-right AfD party. Weidel’s office said she was particularly interested in Bannon’s experience of political communication and alternative media.

    […]

    The grey vote was well represented in the frequently clapping audience but otherwise the crowd looked like a cross section of the kind of people you would see in a city’s central business district at lunchtime, minus the young women working in lower paid roles. A solitary Make America Great Again cap provided a pinprick of red in the hall.

    When Bannon began outlining his vision of the impending financial crisis and revolutionary turmoil to come, the enthusiasm waned. The Swiss audience enjoyed hearing they were a beacon to the world by rejecting the EU but were less keen to imagine a violent clash between political movements in the near future.

    Even Bannon’s effusive host, editor-in-chief of [Swiss right-wing magazine] Die Weltwoche and Swiss People’s Party [SVP] parliamentarian Roger Köppel, who was revelling in the reflected attention, showed his discomfort. “We like stability,” Köppel said […]

    Referring to Switzerland’s role as a cryptocurrency hub, Bannon said cryptocurrencies used as a means to stop central banks from debasing currencies would be one of the main driving forces of the populist nationalist movement. Once you have control of your data, citizenship and currency, that’s when you’ll have true freedom.

    […]

    According to Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge, the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) seems rather nazi-like, isolationist & anti-EU / -NGO, anti-immigrant, pro-supply-side economics, anti-environment (but apparently not AGW deniers?), anti-gender equality, and so on. And on. And on. They also apparently win almost 30% of the Swiss votes.

  153. says

    FL state rep. Elizabeth Porter, quoted by Lynna @ #198 above:

    We’ve been told that we need to listen to the children and do what the children ask. Are there any children on this floor? Are there any children making laws? Do we allow the children to tell us that we should pass a law that says ’no homework’? Or you finish high school at the age of 12 just because they want it so? No. The adults make the laws because we have the age, we have the wisdom, and we have the experience.

    1) What a repulsive and callous remark about kids who’ve experienced what they have.
    2) There’s a lot of ground between listening to the kids and reflexively obeying them or letting them make laws. They’re not demanding the latter – no one’s telling her that; they’re petitioning their representatives, precisely what representative democracy entails, and they have great moral standing on this issue because they’re the ones at risk in large part due to policies these politicians have put in place without consideration of their interests.
    3) Listening to them means just that: listening respectfully and humbly to their statements and arguments. If a politician thinks their arguments are wrong (they’re not in this case), then by all means argue with them on the basis of reason and evidence.
    4) It’s obscene to trivialize their concerns in this way.
    5) There’s been a global children’s rights movement for decades. Child activists have put themselves on the line to defend themselves and others from violence, exploitation, austerity, injustice, the defunding of education, shitty food,… It’s ridiculous not to recognize this.
    6) The amount of homework is actually a legitimate bone of contention.
    7) How depressing that an elected official in a major democracy doesn’t celebrate adolescents being involved in democracy. Democratic participation is a skill we should all hope children start to learn at a young age, by taking part in real decision-making. Porter would no doubt mock and dismiss experiments involving children making decisions about their education that are respected by adults, but they’re happening.
    8) Porter has the age. The wisdom not so much.

  154. raven says

    @lynna 207

    Kudlow is a fanatical adherent of supply-side economics.

    That is a name from the past.
    Kudlow is quite simply, an idiot talking head with no credibility.

    Working lives: Cocaine on Wall Street | Money | The Guardian
    https://www.theguardian.com/money/2000/nov/29/workandcareers.madeleinebunting
    Nov 28, 2000 – Lawrence Kudlow was earning almost $1m a year as a senior Wall Street economist when he first started snorting cocaine. Young – he was … Six years after kicking the habit, Kudlow, now 53, is back on Wall Street in a prominent position. … Last week, his ex-wife admitted he was being treated for addiction.

    His main claim to fame was blowing a 1 million dollar a year Wall Street job by consuming massive amounts of cocaine.

  155. blf says

    He he (snicker) he he he, hoist by his own lying petard, Rafael ‘Ted’ Cruz accuses opponent of changing name to win votes:

    […] Sen Ted Cruz’s challenger was soon confirmed as Rep Beto O’Rourke — a congressman born and raised in El Paso who had outraised Cruz nearly 3-to-1 in recent weeks and lifted Democratic hopes of finally cracking the Republican monopoly on statewide [Texas] politics in November.

    Less than two hours later on the same evening, Cruz released a radio [jingle] against his Democratic threat on Twitter:

    I remember reading stories liberal Robert wanted to fit in,
    So he changed his name to Beto and hid it with a grin.
    Beto wants those open borders and he wants to take our guns.
    Not a chance on earth he’ll get a vote from million of Texans.
    If you’re going to run in Texas you can’t be a liberal man.

    Besides some issues with the meter, the song was criticized on two related fronts.

    1. While O’Rourke’s first name is indeed legally Robert and he is white, he has used the traditionally Hispanic nickname Beto for decades. He also has not tried to hide his real one.

    Texas Monthly reported the nickname was given to him as a baby growing up in a heavily Hispanic town near the Mexican border. O’Rourke even gave The Washington Post a childhood photo of himself in a “Beto” sweater last month to prove it. While Cruz suggested he had changed his name to manipulate Hispanic voters, O’Rourke identified himself as “Robert ‘Beto’ O’Rourke” to the El Paso Times in 2002 […].

    2. “Ted” Cruz did exactly the same thing. Before moving to Texas as a child, he was born Rafael Edward Cruz — in another country, no less.

    […]

  156. blf says

    Trigger Warning: Extreme misogynistic creep ahead…

     

     

     

    This game teaches men it’s OK to grope women. Help me get it off sale:

    Super Seducer is the work of a pickup artist who even Piers Morgan[] finds vile. I’m calling on gamers to join my campaign

    If you’re not good at cooking you better be real good at sucking dick. That memorable line is from a new video game released this week, just in time for International Women’s Day.

    The game is called Super Seducer. It was created by a pickup artist called Richard La Ruina, a man Piers Morgan[] recently branded “repulsive” for his views on British women. Take that in for a second. Piers Morgan thinks this man’s views on women are beyond the pale. In the game players are given the option to try out different lines and “moves” on women, like grabbing their breasts … or their bottom. The aim is to hone your skills for real life so you can “win” the ultimate prize: the girl of your dreams.

    What the game is really offering men a masterclass in harassment, not seduction. […]

    Don’t let the cringey promo video distract you from how toxic this game is. It literally presents groping a woman as one of a menu of options available to men when dating. It tells men that women are prizes to be won through persistence and psychological tricks. It is training for the next generation of Harvey Weinsteins. […]

    Pickup artists like La Ruina make a living selling men sleazy “seduction tricks” to teach them how “to pull”. Behind the so-called psychology of his methods are some pretty dangerous ideas. That persistence and the right lines are more important than what a woman tells you she wants. Too many of us have been on the receiving end of those ideas. Too many of us have had to deal with men who won’t take no for an answer, convinced it’s a matter of time until we succumb to their “charms”. […]

    I’m sick of living in a society where grabbing and groping women is considered normal behaviour. This game goes even further than that — it makes harassment something to aspire to, an achievement […]

    Sony will not be releasing this “game” (initially, apparently, it intended to), Sony blocks Super Seducer video game on PlayStation. The company which has released it is Steam, and is the (main) target of the above-excerpted column’s wrath; e.g., “La Ruia may not know better than to encourage men to harass women, but a company the size of Steam should. They never should have approved this game for sale.”

      † Piers Morgan is a creepy UK “journalist”, and was editor of the Daily Mirror at the time it was heavily involved in the illegal “hacking” of phones. He’s the sort of vile person it is very very hard not to punch on sight.

  157. says

    Update to #221: “BREAKING: @RepCummings seeks subpoena after White House stiffs Gowdy on security clearance docs.”

    Cummings is the ranking member of the House Oversight committee. “Seeks subpoena” doesn’t do justice to his letter. It’s superb.

  158. says

    “Russian spy: State TV anchor warns ‘traitors'”:

    For days, Russia’s main national TV channels were practically silent on the attempt to kill former spy Sergei Skripal with a nerve agent, but this changed in Wednesday’s main evening bulletins.

    The comment by Kirill Kleimenov – the presenter on government-controlled Channel One’s flagship Vremya news programme – sounded like a veiled, mocking threat to anyone considering becoming a double agent for Britain.

    “I don’t wish death on anyone, but for purely educational purposes, I have a warning for anyone who dreams of such a career,” he said.

    “The profession of a traitor is one of the most dangerous in the world,” Kleimenov said, adding that few who had chosen it had lived to a ripe old age.

    Alcoholism, drug addiction, stress and depression resulting in heart attacks and even suicide were the “professional illnesses of a traitor”, according to Kleimenov.

    He also had a second piece of advice for such “traitors or those who simply hate their country in their free time”: “Don’t choose Britain as a place to live.”

    “Something is wrong there. Maybe it’s the climate, but in recent years there have been too many strange incidents with grave outcomes there.”

    [NTV’s] London correspondent, Liza Gerson, mentioned the role of the UK’s Porton Down research facility in the investigation, pointing out that it tested chemicals used against German soldiers in World War One.

    She also took a swipe at Boris Johnson’s warning to Russia this week, saying the foreign secretary was known for his “unpredictable antics” and was “an infant in a man’s suit”….

    Malcolm Nance: “The Russians are now essentially openly warning on state TV that exSpies working for the west are going to be killed. #ChemicalTerroristAttack”

    In related news, “Russian spy: Military deployed after poisoning”:

    About 180 military personnel have been deployed to Salisbury to help in the investigation into the attempted murder of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter.

    The military personnel – drawn mostly from the Army, but also from the Royal Marines and RAF – are experts in chemical warfare and decontamination.

    Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia collapsed on Sunday afternoon after being exposed to a nerve agent.

    Home Secretary Amber Rudd has described the attack as “outrageous”.

    Those deployed include instructors from the Defence Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Centre and the 29 Explosive Ordnance Group, who are experts in bomb disposal….

  159. blf says


    Trump official under fire after granting broad access to mining and oil firms
    (Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    Extractive industry companies who met with Kathleen Benedetto later saw direct benefits from administration decisions

    A key Trump administration official scheduled roughly twice as many meetings with mining and fossil-fuel representatives as with environmental groups, public records requests have revealed.

    Further investigation shows that some of the firms she met with later benefited directly from administration decisions that weakened wilderness and wildlife protections.

    As is the case with other prominent interior department officials appointed by the department secretary, Ryan Zinke, the official work calendar of his senior adviser Kathleen Benedetto indicates the remarkable access that the extractive industries have to the Trump administration.

    “It makes it look like {Benedetto} is the fixer for mining companies,” said Aaron Weiss, a staffer at Center for Western Priorities, an environmental group. The interior department did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

    […]

    Benedetto, who helps oversee the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is a longtime supporter of the mining industry. Before joining the administration, she worked as a mining adviser and geologist and was the co-founder of the Women’s Mining Coalition, a grassroots group that advocates on Capitol Hill. She was also a longtime staffer on the House natural resources committee.

    Benedetto made her sympathies clear during a Denver meeting she attended with BLM staff in July.

    A large amount of federal estate is being managed for conservation purposes, which limits other uses, she said, according to notes from the meeting compiled by the BLM Wyoming state director, Mary Jo Rugwell […]. She stressed that it takes minerals (as a raw material) to drive progress.

    Benedetto’s work calendar reveals that she makes herself readily available to mining companies and lobbyists. Between March and November in 2017, she had approximately 45 meetings or calls with mining groups and more than 30 each with oil and gas groups and with environmental groups. Her calendar also shows her attending a “mining association awards luncheon” at a Washington DC hotel late last year.

    Many of these meetings were followed by official decisions that benefited the private companies or trade groups in question, as in the case of Twin Metals Minnesota, a company that has long sought to build a copper and nickel mine near the famed Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota.

    [… many details…]

    Benedetto’s activities are not the only indication of industry’s sway at the interior department. Speaking at a major energy-industry conference in Houston this week, Zinke said his department should be in the business of being a partner to energy companies that operate on public lands.

  160. blf says

    Human rights activists face growing risk of ‘attacks and killings’, study claims:

    Research shows 34% rise in attacks against campaigners defending land, environment and labour rights in the face of corporate activity

    Human rights defenders who challenge big corporations are being killed, assaulted, harassed and suppressed in growing numbers, researchers have claimed.

    A survey by the Business and Human Rights Resource Center recorded a 34% global rise in attacks against human rights activists last year, including 120 alleged murders and hundreds of other cases involving threats, assaults and intimidation. The number of incidents were found to have risen sharply, with 388 attacks recorded in 2017 compared with 290 the previous year.

    The research focused on attacks against activists involved in protests against corporate activities. Victims included unionists, protests, whistleblowers and indigenous communities.

    Land rights defenders and activists linked to the mining, agribusiness and renewable energy sectors were found to be in greatest danger. The researchers also highlighted an increased risk to lawyers, and to members of human rights and environmental civil society organisations working for corporate accountability.

    In 42% of harassment cases, judicial intimidation was used in an attempt to suppress protests against business activities. This included arbitrary detention, criminalisation and aggressive lawsuits.

    The Business and Human Rights Center found that companies involved in mining, agriculture, energy and construction — particularly those headquartered in the UK, US, China, Canada and France — were the most likely to use legal means in an attempt to prevent human rights protests.

    “Our research highlights that companies do play a significant role in attacks on human rights defenders — the first time that this data has been systematically collected,” said Ana Zbona from the Business and Human Rights Resource Center.

    The researchers found that human rights defenders raising concerns about business operations are often criminalised on fabricated charges. […]

    […]

    Although attacks occurred in every region across the world, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala and the Philippines — which collectively accounted for 212 of all incidents — were identified as the countries where attacks were most probable.

    Last week, the International Council on Mining and Metals acknowledged that attacks on human rights defenders were on the increase and called on relevant government authorities to take action.

    “Defenders continue to face harassment and fear for their safety when they speak out,” the council said in a statement. “This is deeply concerning for companies that are committed to human rights, openness and transparency. While we may not always agree with positions taken by human rights defenders, ICMM recognises freedom of expression and assembly as fundamental human rights.”[]

    [… more details…]

    Last month, palm oil company Socfin and its Cameroonian subsidiary Socapalm began defamation proceedings in Paris against two NGOs, Sherpa and ReAct, and French media outlets Mediapart, L’Obs and Le Point, over reporting of protests by farmers living near plantations run by the two companies. Socfin is part-owned by French conglomerate Bolloré, one of the world’s largest companies. Sherpa claims that, collectively, Socfin and Bolloré have launched more than 20 defamation suits against 40 journalists, NGOs and media organisations since 2009.

    Not mention in the above-cited article are the evil Energy Transfer Suit Claims Greenpeace Incites Eco-Terrorism and How a Canadian Timber Company Is Using US Racketeering Law to Go After Greenpeace. The latter, which I vaguely recall mentioning before in this series of poopyhead threads, is claiming a $100m in damages under RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act): “Given that damages can be tripled under RICO, a decision in Resolute’s favor would endanger Greenpeace’s very existence.”

      † I dithered about putting the quoted ICMM statement in eejit quotes on the presumption they are trying to divert attention, but ultimately decided not to: (1) Taken at face value, it’s not a bad statement (as quoted); and (2) I know nothing about ICCM. The Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge entry is useless, except for the list of members, who include some notorious bad / lying companies — I recognised Anglo American, BHP Billiton, Glencore, and Rio Tinto without even trying — suggesting my initial reaction, ICCM’s statement is just a PR stunt, has sufficient plausibility to very skeptical of ICCM & its statement. Nonetheless, at the moment I am giving ICCM the benefit of the doubt, so to speak.

  161. blf says

    In the UK, Minister criticises snowflake artists who opposed arms firm sponsorship:

    Jake Berry reacts after BAE Systems withdraws as partner of Great Exhibition of the North

    The government minister responsible for the “northern powerhouse” has described campaigners who forced the arms firm BAE Systems to withdraw as a sponsor of a flagship arts festival in north-east England as subsidy-addicted artists and snowflakes.

    […]

    The petition organisers said BAE Systems’ decision showed “that arms corporations cannot hide their war profiteering behind arts events”.

    “The protest was a collective response from artists, cultural workers, and every one of you who signed the petition,” they said. “The campaign does not end here — we will be asking for transparency in how BAE came to be a ‘premier partner’ of the exhibition, and watching arms companies as they attempt to sponsor education and other arts events.”

    […]

  162. says

    SC @214, thanks for that correction.

    raven @223, thanks for the additional information. Maybe that explains why Kudlow shouts so much. (All the Best People)

    In other news, another beloved rightwing conspiracy theory crumbles:

    To push along the Uranium One “scandal,” last fall Republicans said they had explosive new evidence from a confidential informant named William Douglas Campbell, a lobbyist who had worked with Russian companies and who was secretly working for the FBI, claiming that the Russians had funneled money to the Clintons to get the Uranium One deal approved. […]

    The Democratic memo, however, makes clear that if Republicans think Campbell is going to blow the lid off this whole conspiracy, they’re sadly mistaken. The memo summarizes what happened when Campbell — and, separately, officials from the Justice Department — were interviewed by GOP and Democratic members of the three congressional committees. The upshot: Campbell appears to have no evidence of such a conspiracy to offer, and he’s also an unreliable witness.

    The quoted text is from the Washington Post.

    From Steve Benen:

    […] long story short: the blockbuster GOP witness was a dud. Among other things, Campbell never even made “any allegation of corruption, illegality, or impropriety on Clinton, the Clinton Foundation, President Clinton, the Uranium One deal, or CFIUS.”

    Remember, for quite a while, Republicans pointed to this guy as the basis for a new special counsel who would investigate the Clintons.

    […] there was Donald Trump in the fall, arguing via Twitter, “Uranium deal to Russia, with Clinton help and Obama Administration knowledge, is the biggest story that Fake Media doesn’t want to follow!” […]

  163. says

    Several weeks ago, the Republican leadership in the Senate (25 senators) sent a letter to Trump asking him to “re-engage with the Trans-Pacific Partnership.” Steve Mnuchin responded that Trump “will consider” the Senate’s proposal.

    Too late.

    A trade pact originally conceived by the United States to counter China’s growing economic might in Asia now has a new target: President Trump’s embrace of protectionism.

    A group of 11 nations — including major United States allies like Japan, Canada and Australia — signed a broad trade deal on Thursday in Chile’s capital, Santiago, that challenges Mr. Trump’s view of trade as a zero-sum game filled with winners and losers.

    Covering 500 million people on either side of the Pacific Ocean, the pact represents a new vision for global trade as the United States imposes steel and aluminum tariffs on even some of its closest friends.

    NY Times link

    The U.S. is isolated, left out.

  164. says

    A true explanation for why Trump agreed to meed with the leader of North Korea:

    “He likes to be the first. He likes doing things no one has ever done before,” one senior Trump official said.

    Politico link

  165. blf says

    Turkey sentences 25 journalists to prison terms, most on terror charges (multiple spelling corrections, all unmarked, including the names of Gülen, Erdoğan, and Désir — France24 almost never includes the accents):

    An Istanbul court on Thursday sentenced 25 journalists to prison terms of up to seven and a half years over links to the group blamed by Turkey for the 2016 failed coup, in a mass trial of media staff detained after the putsch bid.
    […]
    Almost all of those jailed worked for media close to the group of US-based preacher Fethullah Gülen, who Ankara says organised the coup bid. He denies the charges.

    Many of those convicted worked for the Zaman newspaper, the most prominent of the media titles close to Gülen, which was taken over by the authorities in March 2016.

    […]

    The Turkish authorities have detained dozens of journalists in the crackdown after the failed coup.

    Not all were considered close to Gülen, with some sympathetic to the Kurdish cause or simply critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

    Turkey says such measures imposed under the state of emergency in place since July 2016 are needed to eradicate the influence of Gülen from Turkish society.

    […]

    Gülen and his supporters however deny any link to the coup bid and insist they are victims of a witch hunt.

    OSCE media freedom representative Harlem Désir said he was concerned by the latest verdicts, saying on Twitter that the “severe charges were never proven during the investigation” and urging Turkey to free the journalists.

    Last month a Turkish court jailed three prominent journalists […] for life on charges of links to Gülen.

    In another prominent process seen as a test case for press freedoms, 17 current and former writers, cartoonists and executives from the opposition Cumhuriyet (“Republic”) daily remain on trial on charges of supporting terror groups.

    […]

  166. says

    Republicans are gearing up for a redistricting fight:

    Nearly a decade ago, Republicans launched REDMAP, an audacious bid to win key statehouses and governorships in order to give themselves control over the redistricting process that followed the 2010 Census, so they could gerrymander district lines in their favor.

    The project succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, giving them a major edge in successive election cycles.

    Now, they’re looking to do it again.

    The GOP has launched its first ever national group focused exclusively on how congressional and state legislative maps are drawn, with an eye on the next round of redistricting, which will follow the 2020 Census. And they have help from deep-pocketed, state-based super PACs devoted to holding onto their gains.

    Last September, Republicans created the National Republican Redistricting Trust (NRRT) as an umbrella group for its redistricting plans—and an answer to Eric Holder’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which aims to give Democrats a louder voice in the redistricting process this time around.

    […] “solely focused on redistricting legal and data matters,” freeing up other GOP entities like the state legislative and congressional campaign committees to “focus on winning races and expanding their Republican majorities.” It says it plans to raise $35 million by 2020. […]

    Link

  167. blf says

    ‘Historic moment’: Abortion to be debated in Argentina’s Congress:

    Women’s rights groups cautiously optimistic as more than 70 politicians introduce bill that would legalise abortion.

    Women’s rights groups in Argentina are expressing cautious optimism after dozens of politicians introduced legislation that would legalise abortion.

    […]

    Currently, abortion is only allowed in the predominantly Catholic country when the mother’s health is at risk, in cases of rape or if the fetus is extremely deformed.

    Activists, holding green handkerchiefs, which has come to symbolise abortion rights in the country, cheered outside Congress in the capital Buenos Aires on Tuesday as the bill was introduced.

    […]

    According to [professor at la Universidad Nacional de Villa Maria, Pablo] Bessone, the debate has shifted from focussing on the morality of the issue to framing abortion as a “public health problem”.

    Aracelia Ferreyra, who was among the politicians who presented the bill, said on Tuesday, “This is a topic of equality and inequality, because those who do not have money pay with their health or their bodies.”

    […]

    The Argentine government estimates that there are between 370,000 and 522,000 clandestine abortions each year. Rights groups and the World Health Organization say the figure could be much higher. According to the bill, about a third of maternal deaths result from the clandestine procedures, Reuters news agency reported.

    […]

    The bill could pass the lower house, but according to Bessone, it will face its “main obstacles” in the conservative Senate.

    […]

  168. says

    Much needed antidote to all the bad news we see every day:
    https://twitter.com/CNNPolitics/status/971983287680884736

    Tybre Faw [a ten year old boy] traveled 7 hours to see his hero, Rep. John Lewis, who was in Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the anniversary of Bloody Sunday. The boy became emotional when they met, and Lewis invited him to march with him toward the Edmund Pettus Bridge

    Video available at the link.

  169. says

    From pastor Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist who leads First Baptist Church in Dallas and serves as an evangelical adviser to the president:

    Evangelicals know they are not compromising their beliefs in order to support this great president.

    And let’s be clear — Evangelicals still believe in the commandment: Thou shalt not have sex with a porn star. However, whether this president violated that commandment or not is totally irrelevant to our support of him.

    Evangelicals knew they weren’t voting for an altar boy when they voted for Donald Trump. We supported him for his policies and his strong leadership. Evangelicals understand the concept of sin and forgiveness.

    The statements by Jeffress (above) were excerpted from an interview on Fox News. Yes, Jeffress really said all that.

  170. says

    Oh, Canada!

    More than 750 physicians, residents, and medical students in Quebec signed an online petition asking that a recent hike in their salaries be canceled and that the funds go, instead, to overburdened nurses and patients in need of health care.

    “These increases are all the more shocking because our nurses, clerks and other professionals face very difficult working conditions, while our patients live with the lack of access to required services because of the drastic cuts in recent years and the centralization of power in the Ministry of Health. The only thing that seems to be immune to the cuts is our remuneration,” the petition read in French.

    The move comes weeks after the government released details of a $2 billion proposal to triple the salaries of doctors over the course of 10 years. […]

    Since then, a Quebec nurses union has been sparring with the government over demanding working conditions, including high nurse-to-patient ratios, nurse shortages, and low wages. […]

    Link

  171. says

    Trump’s judicial nominees in the first year of his administration are 71% white men.
    Link.

    Scroll down to see the chart representing Trump’s judicial nominees.

  172. says

    MSNBC is reporting that Cohen used his Trump Org. email in his dealings with Stormy Daniels. (It’s so bizarre to even discuss this like there’s any possibility he wasn’t acting as Trump’s agent, but watching their bullshit story slowly unravel in public is fun.)

  173. says

    Here’s the NBC report – “Michael Cohen used Trump company email in Stormy Daniels arrangements”:

    President Donald Trump’s personal attorney used his Trump Organization email while arranging to transfer money into an account at a Manhattan bank before he wired $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence.

    The lawyer, Michael Cohen, also regularly used the same email account during 2016 negotiations with the actress — whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford — before she signed a nondisclosure agreement, a source familiar with the discussions told NBC News.

    And Clifford’s attorney at the time addressed correspondence to Cohen in his capacity at the Trump Organization and as “Special Counsel to Donald J. Trump,” the source said.

    The email, dated Oct. 26, 2016, was sent to Cohen by an assistant to First Republic Bank senior managing director Gary Farro. The email appears to have been a reply to Cohen; the subject was “RE: First Republic Bank Transfer” and the message confirmed that “the funds have been deposited into your checking account.”

    “The $130,000 question, however, is from whose account was the money transferred on Oct. 26, 2016.” [Daniels’ current lawyer Michael] Avenatti said.

    He said the email “suggests” it might have been a Trump Organization account since the correspondence was through Cohen’s Trump email. He said it was “curious” that after Cohen got the email, he immediately forwarded it to his personal gmail and then used gmail to forward it to Davidson, presumably to show the money was ready to be wired.

    “Mr. Cohen should immediately provide the prior emails [between him and the bank] to show exactly where the money came from,” Avenatti said….

  174. says

    SC @242, bit by bit their own incompetence and unethical behavior comes back to bite them. It is kind of fun to watch.

    This whole farce is probably costing Stormy Daniels hundreds of thousands of dollars. Her lawyer is not incompetent, and he’s working almost 24/7.

    In other news that provides some moments of schadenfreude, Martin Shkreli’s lawyer admitted that he wants to punch his client in the face. Link

    Shkreli is the openly arrogant guy that raised the price of an anti-infection drug used to treat AIDS and cancer patients by more than 5,000 percent. Then he went on social media to brag about it. Shkreli is in court to face fraud charges (deceiving investors). He has faced charges before.

    Matsumoto [U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto] previously found Shkreli responsible for over $10.4 million in financial losses linked to his time running Turing Pharmaceuticals.

    On Monday he ordered Shkreli to forfeit $7.36 million in assists, including a Picasso painting and the sole copy of a rare Wu-Tang Clan album.

    Shkreli was convicted last August and had his bond revoked when he offered up $5,000 to anyone who got a sample of Hillary Clinton’s hair.

    Link

  175. says

    Trump is easy to play, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un knows it:

    […] To understand the problem here, consider a meeting Trump had about North Korea last year with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Trump came to his first meeting with the Chinese leader last April convinced that China could easily force Pyongyang to give up its nukes. Xi then gave Trump a quick recap of the complex history of Chinese-Korean relations — which promptly changed the president’s mind.

    “After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy,” the president recalled in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power [over] North Korea. … But it’s not what you would think.”

    There is no way the North Koreans don’t know about this incident, and no way they failed to learn the obvious lesson. The Kim regime knows the president has a set of clear weaknesses — he’s easily swayed by flattery, not terribly interested in policy details, and deeply invested in his reputation as a dealmaker. Put those together and it’s easy to imagine the North Koreans tricking Trump into a deal that, in the long term, helps their strategic position while hurting America’s. […]

    Link

  176. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 213.

    From Wonkette’s coverage of Oleg Deripaska’s editorial for the Daily Caller:

    Sometimes, but not often, we wonder if we are being too harsh when we say people like Sean Hannity and Devin Nunes and other various and sundry conservatives […] seem to be literally working for Russia and against the United States. And then something always happens to remind us that, as usual, we are right on target. This is one of those times.

    The Daily Caller, Tucker Carlson’s fashion blog for racists and racist soft-core porn enthusiasts, has a new blogger, and his name is Oleg Deripaska. Yes, THAT Oleg Deripaska, the guy known as Vladimir Putin’s FAVORITE oligarch. […] The same Oleg Deripaska that double ankle bracelet boy Paul Manafort used to work for (in order to “benefit” Putin) and from whom Manafort reportedly laundered/stole MILLIONS of dollars. The same dude Paul Manafort promised sexxxy briefings about the American election, in exchange for OH WHO THE FUCK KNOWS.

    Also, this is the same Oleg Deripaska whose former girlfriend/sex worker pal Anastasia Veshukevich AKA Nastya Rybka is currently sitting in a Thai prison saying she has hours of recordings taken on Deripaska’s yacht that prove a conspiracy to interfere in the US election, to benefit Donald Trump. She says she heard Deripaska discussing “a plan for the 2016 election.” Is she credible? Dunno! […]

    What has been inelegantly termed the “Deep State” is really this: shadow power exercised by a small number of individuals from media, business, government and the intelligence community …

    Oh hey, Alex Jones and Roger Stone! […] DEEP STATE! DEEP STATE!

    The wife of a central architect of the Department of Justice’s “Russia narrative” secretly worked for the dossier-peddling Fusion GPS. […]

    … [O]n March 16, 2017, Daniel Jones — himself a team member of Fusion GPS, self-described former FBI agent and, as we now know from the media, an ex-Feinstein staffer — met with my lawyer, Adam Waldman, and described Fusion as a “shadow media organization helping the government,” funded by a “group of Silicon Valley billionaires and George Soros.”

    OH HEY, Sean Hannity and every other Fox News conspiracy theory ever! Golly, this op-ed is getting crowded!

    My lawyer testified these facts to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Nov. 3. Mr. Soros is, not coincidentally, also the funder of two “ethics watchdog” NGOs (Democracy 21 and CREW) attacking Rep. [Devin] Nunes’ committee memo.

    OH HEY, DEVIN WITH THE DUMB MEMO! Didn’t know you had time to ghost-write op-eds for Russian oligarchs in your spare time! […]

    Are you fucking shitting us right now, Daily Caller?

    Because really, this shit sounds exactly like it was written by Devin Nunes and Alex Jones and Roger Stone and Sean Hannity naked in a hot tub together. […] And Katrina Vanden Heuvel and her weird-ass husband. All naked.

    And we guess Oleg Deripaska was there too. […]

  177. says

    From Josh Marshall:

    […] What all of this means is that North Korea mainly has what it wants or rather what it feels it truly needs and can bargain from a position of strength to get what it wants: end of sanctions, normalization, aid, etc. It is highly unrealistic to imagine that North Korea will ever agree to denuclearize.

    Generally speaking, you agree to a summit like this once there’s an agreement more or less in place worked out by subordinates. […] Trump appears inclined to approach this like a business negotiation that he’s going to knock out of the park even though he doesn’t have much understanding of what’s being discussed. He shows every sign of getting played and we’re likely to see a lengthy process of aides trying to make the best of the fait accompli he’s created.

    […] President Trump has already stated publicly that this is a negotiation, a meeting to achieve denuclearization. No one from North Korea has said that. Trump has said that. […] That sets up high odds of embarrassment and disappointment. […]

    So will Trump agree to things he shouldn’t? Will he feel humiliated and react belligerently? It’s a highly unpredictable encounter with an inexperienced and petulant President who will reject almost all counsel. It sounds like North Korea has gotten a really big thing in exchange for very little and has no real incentive to do more than meet, bask, say generic things and not agree to anything. Trump looks like he’s getting played big time. I suspect we will learn that he didn’t consult with any advisors before agreeing to meet.

    […] We have been on an extremely dangerous trajectory. There are no good solutions. There are probably no realistic paths to North Korea ceasing to be a nuclear power. But you could perhaps find agreements to limit the scope and reach of the nuclear and missile programs in place (perhaps even scale it back) with some mix of normalization and aid. But we start with an opening gambit in which Trump seems to be stumbling into something of a trap and being guided by his self-importance and vanity rather than any realistic appraisal of the situation. […]

    Much more at the link.

  178. says

    Michael Cohen must be feeling overmatched by Stormy Daniels and her lawyer. Cohen is adding more “pit bulls” to his team.

    […] Michael Cohen, has brought on New York attorney Lawrence S. Rosen to help with the handling of Stormy Daniels’ non disclosure agreement, […]

    Rosen’s bio on the website for the firm at which he is a partner, LaRocca, Hornick, Rosen, Greenberg & Blaha, describes him as a “pit bull” known for “aggressively fighting and using his rhetorical and writing skills to get you a win.” Cohen has also been described as a “pit bull.”

    Rosen’s law firm is based out of the Trump building on Wall Street in Manhattan. […]

    Link

    Is Stormy going to bring down Trump Tower and all of its occupants?

  179. blf says

    (1) Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un believe they are winning — and the risks of that are epic:

    […] Both leaders view the provisional agreement to meet as a personal triumph born of resolve. If each reckons he has the other over a barrel, they will be little room for compromise if and when they meet.

    The South Korean messengers who conveyed Kim’s invitation took pains to lay credit at Trump’s feet. White House briefers on Thursday night also went out of their way to tie the surprise development tightly to the US president’s [sic] leadership qualities.

    Having invested so much personal capital in the meetings, there is a significant danger of a backlash from either or both men if they do not get their way under the glare of international attention.

    There is plenty of room for misunderstanding. Both leaders say they want the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, but historically their governments have interpreted that to mean quite different things. While Washington sees it in terms of North Korean unilateral disarmament, Pyongyang envisions an end to the “hostile policies” of the US and the formal removal of the nuclear deterrent umbrella that has sheltered South Korea from its northern neighbour.

    There is no guarantee of the summit actually taking place. Kim did not put his invitation down on paper. It was relayed orally by the South Korean national security chief, Chung Eui-yong. Since Kim met Chung and his delegation on Monday in Pyongyang, the North has remained silent on the contents of the offer and could seek to move the goalposts in the run-up to the high-stakes meeting.

    Trump could not contain his excitement at Thursday’s developments. He appeared unannounced at the White House briefing room to tip off journalists about Chung’s planned press statement. He told one reporter he hoped to garner the credit for the breakthrough.

    He seemed unaware that Pyongyang had been seeking a one-on-one meeting with a US president since the 1990s at least. In securing agreement, Kim can claim an achievement that eluded his father and grandfather — being treated in the eyes of the world as an equal by the most powerful man on earth.

    “To be clear — we need to talk to North Korea,” argued Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury institute of international studies at Monterey. “But Kim is not inviting Trump so that he can surrender North Korea’s weapons. Kim is inviting Trump to demonstrate that his investment in nuclear and missile capabilities has forced the United States to treat him as an equal.”

    […]

    Historically, major summits have followed months or years of carefully orchestrated lower-level negotiations. For this new diplomatic opening to be successful, that order will have to be reversed. The question is whether Kim and Trump would settle for something less than a grand bargain.

    […]

    There are serious questions over whether the Trump administration is equipped for complex talks. Its leading Korea experts have left and the state department has been excluded. Rex Tillerson, travelling in Africa this week, does not even seem to have been informed of the development. […]

    Trump for now is flying solo, convinced of his expertise in the art of the deal. But his deal-making in the real estate business drove him to bankruptcy several times. The implications of an equivalent failure in nuclear summitry, and how he might react, are sobering.

    (2) Trump meeting Kim Jong-un is a half-baked idea — and a dangerous one:

    The president [sic] is more likely to spill his guts about classified intelligence than to get the upper hand with any kind of meaningful deal

    One is an egomaniacally unhinged, nuclear-armed neophyte, who scares his allies and enemies alike. So is the other.

    The extraordinary prospect of direct talks between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un would be a delicious moment of karma among kooky world leaders. If it weren’t for their ability to destroy half the planet.

    They say we get the leaders we deserve, and these two leaders surely deserve one another. But does the world really deserve its fate to be settled by two Little Rocket Men?

    Let’s size up this epic summit, shall we?

    The North Korean dictator has already achieved most of what his Stalinist regime has long desired: to be seen as an equal of the almighty United States of America. By sitting opposite Trump, Kim need concede nothing to still come out as a winner.

    […]

    One thing is already clear about this half-baked idea: Trump is more likely to spill his guts about classified intelligence than he is to get the upper hand with any kind of meaningful deal.

    We have some recent history to underscore that point. It was only on Saturday that our dear leader spilled his guts about this North Korean deal at the Gridiron dinner.

    At one point, the commander-in-chief drifted off script to ramble something incoherent about the North Koreans.

    […]

    In case we didn’t get the news, he continued: “I would not rule out direct talks with Kim Jong-un,” he said. […]

    Some people thought he was joking: others were just plain confused. South Korean officials later pointed out that Trump had not talked to the North Koreans, but instead had talked to them. So foreign policy experts naturally assumed that Trump had confused the two Koreas.

    Not quite. He just confused the Gridiron dinner for the Oval Office. An easy mistake for someone who asks his paying guests at Mar-a-Lago what he should do about gun control.

    […]

    For those new to the North Korean brief, including those in the West Wing, it’s worth pointing out that the North Korean deal during the Clinton years was supposed to halt nuclearization. Then it turned out Pyongyang had a secret nuclear program.

    Then it was the Bush administration that thought it had negotiated a breakthrough, alongside four other nations including Russia and China. That deal lasted right up until the old “trust but verify” issue of inspections in 2009.

    Bush’s national security adviser, Steve Hadley, liked to say there was a good reason why you didn’t stage a presidential meeting unless you had already achieved something in the pre-meeting discussions. In addition to wasting the president’s time, a premature presidential meeting would surrender any incentive for concessions.

    It’s like a diplomatic version of the Art of the Deal, but with war and peace in place of luxury condominiums.

    This may not be the best time for our newly dove-like Trump to change national security advisers. The biggest hawk against North Korea — and the most vocal skeptic about direct talks — is one John Bolton, Bush’s former ambassador to the United Nations and a Fox News favorite. Bolton is now tipped to take over from the yet-to-quit HR McMaster as Trump’s next national security adviser.

    Some people have called Bolton a “warmongering lunatic”, but that is obviously unkind to lunatics.

    […]

    There was a time when an idealistic new president campaigned against the establishment, promised to talk to America’s adversaries, like the mullahs in Iran and the communists in Cuba. For years the Republicans ran the emotional gamut from disdain to disgust at his weak foreign policy. But that president’s name was Barack Obama, and we all know what the world thought of him.

    Now we have a president in the pocket of Vladimir Putin, who is also busting sanctions to help Kim Jong-un. So this summit is less a meeting of adversaries and more a get-together of subsidiaries.

  180. blf says

    Government advising New Jersey town on ferry service to Kushner resort:

    Long Branch city and transit officials working to get more funds for pier and ferry service to resort co-owned by Kushner

    The federal government has been advising a beach town on the Jersey Shore on plans to build a pier and start a ferry service that would speed New Yorkers to the doorstep of a resort co-owned by Jared Kushner.

    Kushner’s seaside resort sits right next to the proposed pier, which places the federal government in the awkward position of helping steer a project that would benefit Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. Once the project is complete, a former city official said it would raise property values at the Kushner resort, which is currently selling 269 condos for as much as $1.9m each.

    The Federal Transit Administration […] first gave Long Branch $3.34m in 2008 to redevelop a fishing pier beloved by generations of beachgoers, but that is not enough money to finish the project.

    So city leaders have been talking with federal transit officials about how to apply for more funds, and say the agency highlighted the ferry plan at a conference last year as a promising way to improve traffic by getting commuters off the roads.

    […]

    If the pier is rebuilt on its historic site and the ferry starts up, the value of those condos could rise as much as 50%, said Howard Woolley, Long Branch’s former business administrator.

    Kushner Cos spokeswoman Christine Taylor said the pier would benefit Long Branch, and had no specific benefit to us versus anyone else in town.

    Of course, we, like other high-class developers, discuss projects that help the communities that we serve, she said in a statement. To suggest that we have done anything unethical is patently false and appears to be drummed up again for political gain.

    […]

    Emails obtained through the Open Public Records Act and interviews indicate the Kushner family and local leaders sometimes coordinated.

    A Kushner official in July 2016 wanted to set up a meeting to discuss “future pier/ferry/helicopter”. A 2017 email from a Kushner partner in the project proposed a concept that could offer more parking for ferry passengers.

    […]

    “The development of that project will accrue to the benefit of the family’s business, and will certainly enhance the value of his prime beachfront property,” said Virginia Canter, an attorney with the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “[Kushner] needs to recuse himself from anything involving infrastructure.”

    Kushner has taken no part of any business, loans or projects with his family’s business since joining the government, said Peter Mirijanian, a spokesman for Kushner’s attorney Abbe Lowell.

    He has followed the ethics advice he has received for all of his work which include the separation from his business and recusals when appropriate, Mirijanian said.

    Whilst it’s unclear if anything shady or unethical has happened, attorney Canter has a very good point — “[Kushner] needs to recuse himself from anything involving infrastructure.”

  181. Chris J says

    RE: Lynna 246

    That Op-Ed was fascinating to read. It starts off by talking about Wag The Dog, a movie where an incompetent government keeps changing it’s story to keep a cover-up. It makes *strong* allusions to that throughout the whole piece. You know what it doesn’t do? Even describe any real-life parallels to a changing story. It only really talks about two major real-life events; the dossier being funded in part by the Clinton campaign and the reaction to the Nunes memo, and it definitely implies that there was some change of story happening. But… like… even in his own words there wasn’t any. These were just consecutive events.

    The only other “gotcha” that’s related to some sort of “they said this, but actually it was this” is with the memo where Deripaska quotes some guy apparently from Fusion GPS calling it a “shadow media organization” helping the government funded by George Soros. First off, this is one dude saying this with no real evidence or argument or anything. Second, of course Deripaska is repeating this allegation; it fits neatly into right-wing conspiracy theories. Thirdly, it still is no gotcha! There’s no “they said this, but it’s really that” here! He says that Glenn Simpson’s testimony was released to set the record straight, but says nothing about what that correction was!

    It’s 70% grave bluster, 10% references to real events, and 20% repetition of conspiracy theories that the real events don’t actually support.

  182. blf says

    Sort-of related to @212, Saudi Arabia finally allows co-ed pop concerts… but bans dancing:

    If you are living in Saudi Arabia, you can now attend concerts by international artists, something which would have been unimaginable a year ago. […] That said, authorities don’t want things to get too out of hand. So, at these new concerts, men and women have to sit in different sections and are banned from… dancing.

    Imagine going to a concert of your favorite band, having to refrain from dancing to your favourite songs. That’s what Saudi men and women have to deal with.

    On March 30, 2018, famed Egyptian singer Tamer Hosny will perform in Jeddah […]. However, concert goers who had pre-ordered tickets noticed something strange written on them — that “dancing or shimmying” are strictly forbidden.

    […]

    The dance ban is far from the only rule and regulation that will be enforced at this concert. This sign at a ticket sales counter clearly states, among other things, that men and women will have to sit separately. [image at the link]

    […]

    In the past few months, several concerts were held in Saudi Arabia — a real revolution as, up until now, concerts were banned. Lebanese singer Hiba Tawaji, Greek composer Yanni, ‘Oriental pop’ singer Mohammed Abdo and American rapper Nelly have all performed, but only in front of single-gender crowds. Tawaji, for example, performed in front of an all-women crowd, while the male artists only performed for men.

    The first co-ed festivities in Saudi Arabia occurred on September 23, 2017 to mark the Saudi national holiday. On that night, men and women danced together in the middle of the street, sparking condemnation from the more conservative fringe of society.

    […]

    As additional precautions against enjoying yourself, sound-deadening ear protection is required at all concerts, blindfolds at all dances, the audience must face the back wall, looking away from the stage, and the entertainers will be nailed to the floor in their dressing rooms. As a gesture of good faith, audience members may visit the toilet during intermission, but must make a reservation three weeks in advance. Thank you for your understanding, and please have an awful time.

  183. says

    Update on the nerve toxin attack in Salisbury: There’s been police activity at the gravesite of Skripal’s wife and son. By all accounts, the investigation is progressing at a good pace. Skripal and his daughter remain in critical condition. The police officer hospitalized because of exposure to the toxin, Nick Bailey, is in serious but stable condition (another article said he’d regained consciousness). They don’t know whether he was poisoned when he responded to the scene in the park or when he went to Skripal’s home to investigate, but appear to believe the latter is more likely. Responses are being discussed pending the results of the investigation. In addition to those listed in the article – “expelling diplomats, revision of sanctions, not officially sending a minister to the football World Cup, designating Russia as a state sponsor of terror – and even, though this is believed to be unlikely, declassifying intelligence implicating Vladimir Putin” – Bill Browder has suggested that they could freeze assets in the UK under the Magnitsky Act. The article notes that “The thinking in Westminster is understood to be that the UK has few benefits from good relations with Putin and Johnson’s visit to Moscow was not deemed a success.”

  184. blf says

    The Irish Times does a good line in snark, The world’s most powerful baboon has been tweeting about the Oscars:

    President [sic] Trump tweeted that the declining audience for the Oscars is due to the fact that we don’t have stars. Except for himself

    Oh God. What’s Trump done now? Has he thrown his dung at the zookeeper? Has he stuck a banana in his ear?

    No, the world’s most powerful baboon has been tweeting about the Oscars. Continuing a decline that been underway for decades, the 2018 ceremony was the least watched ever. […]

    Lowest rated Oscars in HISTORY. Problem is, we don’t have Stars anymore — except your President (just kidding, of course)! Trump tweeted.

    […]

    Look away if you don’t wish to trigger indigestion. But Donald Trump is correct. He isn’t really joking and he hasn’t really identified the Problem (let’s not get carried away). But we don’t have movie stars in the way we used to.

    In the golden days of Hollywood, when the staff could still be treated as chattel, stars were invaluable assets who could flog a movie on name alone. Stick Gary Cooper or Jean Harlow in any old rubbish and the queues would snake around the block.

    That lasted well into the modern era. Until relatively recently, Tom Cruise could make automatic fortunes for distributors of films bad enough to star Tom Cruise. […]

    […]

    At some point towards the end of the last century, long after the studio system broke down, movie stars shook off the preening and became a little bit more like human beings. The hollow mega-celebrities who attract undemanding worship now come from social media, YouTube and reality television.

    Trump, a creation of that latter medium, really is closer to being an old-fashioned supernova […]

    A supernovas is the dying explosion of bloated star, burning everything before swallowing themselves as a black hole. Very hair furorian.

  185. says

    blf @258:

    A supernovas is the dying explosion of bloated star, burning everything before swallowing themselves as a black hole. Very hair furorian.

    Excellent analysis.

    I’m laughing, but I don’t want to be on the same planet when Hair Furor goes supernova.

    In other news, we have an update on Hair Furor’s offer to speak to Robert Mueller. (Spoiler: it’s not what Trump said previously, which was, “I’m looking forward to it, actually […] love to […] absolutely prepared to answer questions.”) From the Wall Street Journal:

    […] Trump’s lawyers are seeking to negotiate a deal with special counsel Robert Mueller that uses an interview with the president as leverage to spur a conclusion to the Russia investigation, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

    The president’s legal team is considering telling Mr. Mueller that Mr. Trump would agree to a sit-down interview based on multiple considerations, including that the special counsel commit to a date for concluding at least the Trump-related portion of the investigation. One idea is to suggest a deadline of 60 days from the date of the interview, the person said.

    Another consideration for the legal team is reaching an agreement with Mr. Mueller on the scope of his questioning of the president…

    [Much laughter]

  186. says

    “The Very Strange Case of Two Russian Gun Lovers, the NRA, and Donald Trump.”

    Even setting aside possible (likely) criminal acts on the part of the NRA and Republican Party, the extent to which the Kremlin and Russian organized crime have infiltrated and joined forces with the NRA and Republican Party is beyond disturbing. Here’s part of the description of Torshin – lifetime NRA member, close with major Republican donors, invited to the WH prayer breakfast – in that great EP article about Torshin from last spring:

    …The high-ranking official from the Central Bank of Russia has long been on the radar of the Spanish public prosecutor and the Civil Guard. He was on the brink of being arrested in Palma de Mallorca in the summer of 2013 during a meeting with a mafioso – who has just been sentenced in Spain – but he didn’t turn up to the meeting. A unit consisting of 12 officers was awaiting him at the airport and in a hotel, where he was expected to arrive accompanied by other people being investigated in a money-laundering ring. The Russian Federation’s Prosecutor General, aware that Torshin was being investigated, requested information about the case on at least two occasions, but received no response from the Spanish authorities given that the investigation was sealed.

    As well as being a powerful banker, a leader of President Putin’s political party (United Russia) and his trusted ally, and a senator between 2001 and 2015 (in addition to being chairman of the upper house of the Russian parliament between May 19 and September 21, 2011), he is, according to the investigation carried out by the Spanish security forces, also a boss of a notorious criminal organization known as Taganskaya….

  187. blf says

    Update to @168 and probably others, Florida governor signs gun control bill dubbed ‘baby step’ by students:

    Rick Scott signs measure in rare break with NRA, raising rifle-buying age and allowing teachers to train to carry guns at school
    […]
    The bill is not what many of the survivors of the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, wanted, which was a blanket ban on assault weapons for the general public.

    But it marked, for a Republican governor, a rare break with the National Rifle Association. Marion Hammer, the NRA’s Florida lobbyist, called the bill a display of bullying and coercion.

    […]

    The bill also creates a so-called “guardian” program enabling teachers to train to carry handguns on campus.

    Scott had been opposed to the idea of arming teachers […]. Scott said he was not convinced about that part of the bill.

    “I’m glad, however, the plan is not mandatory,” he said. “If counties don’t want to do this, they can simply say no.”

    […]

    Student activists called the legislation “a baby step”.

    “Obviously, this is what we’ve been fighting for. It’s nowhere near the long-term solution,” said Chris Grady, a senior at the school and an organizer of a rally against gun violence planned for 24 March in Washington, called March for our Lives.

    “It’s a baby step, but a huge step at the same time. Florida hasn’t passed any legislation like this in God knows how long.”

    As expected, the NRA’s response was “spittle-flecked frothing” unlike the Parkland students and their allies.

  188. says

    Summary, and update, on the proposed meeting between Hair Furor and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un:

    1. Trump summoned South Korea’s Chung Eui-yong to the White House for an unscheduled meeting.

    2. Chung told Trump that Kim Jong-un wants to meet.

    3. Trump agreed immediately to the meeting.

    4. Trump directed Mr. Chung to announce the meeting to the White House press corps. (Which was also a strange move.)

    5. The next day (today), Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “The president will not have the meeting without seeing concrete steps and concrete actions take place by North Korea.”

    6. Later today, an administration official told the Wall Street Journal, “The invitation has been extended and accepted, and that stands.”

    Nobody knows what the fuck is going on.

  189. blf says

    North Korea talks: Where will Donald Trump meet Kim Jong-un? (Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    Mar-a-Lago is a long shot but venue options for a historic summit could include Geneva, New York or even Pyongyang

    It will be one of the most eagerly watched diplomatic encounters since Richard Nixon was hosted by Mao Zedong in China, or Ronald Reagan held talks with Mikhail Gorbachev in neutral Switzerland. [Eh? I thought the Gorbachev-Reagan meeting was in Reykjavík, Iceland.† –blf]

    […]

    Analysts generally agreed Trump should not hand Kim the public relations coup of a photo opportunity in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.

    Christopher Hill, a former US ambassador to North Korea, told America’s MSNBC network: “My advice would be the president should not journey to Pyongyang. Nor should he invite Kim Jong-un to Washington.”

    There have been creative solutions in the past, Hill continued, including “ship summits”: in 1989 George H W Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev met on a Soviet cruise ship moored in a harbour in Malta […]

    “One of the reasons we had the Balkan deliberations in Dayton, Ohio {an agreement that signalled the end to the civil war in Bosnia}, was that no one wanted them to come to Washington and see the whole process blow up, so maybe we could do it in some out of the way place in the US or a third country.”

    […]

    “And by the way, [the location] wouldn’t be China because I think the North Koreans want to show they can deal with the US and not through China.”

    [… more speculations…]

    Ultimately, however, the choice of venue will be less important than the content of the negotiations. [Senior research associate at MIT’s security studies programme, Jim] Walsh, who has visited North Korea, admitted: “I’m both elated and horrified. I feel those emotions simultaneously. It could be the beginning of something important or it could crash and burn and we could all end up in a more dangerous place.”

    One of the analysts, Frank Aum, a senior expert on North Korea at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, points out Kim doesn’t seem to have ever left N.Korea since assuming power. (Also see Moscow is a no-go for Kim Jong-un as he cancels planned visit to Russia, 2015). Hence, the DMZ JSA (Panmunjom) is an obvious candidate.

      † The Reykjavík summit was in 1986; the year before there was a summit in Geneva, Switzerland, which is when Gorbachev & Raygun met for the first time.

  190. says

    “Death of investigative journalist sparks mass protests in Slovakia”:

    Tens of thousands of Slovaks have rallied to demand the resignation of prime minister Robert Fico’s government following the murder of a journalist that has shocked the central European nation and stoked anger over sleaze in public life.

    Ján Kuciak and his fiancee, Martina Kušnírová, both 27, were found shot dead at their home near Bratislava on 25 February. Police have said Kuciak’s death was “most likely” related to an investigation of his that resulted in an article on alleged ties between Slovakia’s top politicians and the Italian mafia, which his employer posthumously published.

    Slovak media called Friday’s protest in the capital, Bratislava, the biggest since the 1989 Velvet revolution that toppled communism in Czechoslovakia. Thousands marched in other Slovak cities, while hundreds of people gathered in cities in Europe and elsewhere.

    Organisers demanded a thorough investigation of Kuciak’s death and a “new trustworthy government”….

    President Andrej Kiska, a political rival of Fico, has said Slovakia is suffering a crisis of trust and has called for a revamp of the three-party coalition or an early election.

    Fico has accused foreign forces of trying to destabilise Slovakia and has questioned the president’s meetings with financier George Soros in New York last year without any foreign ministry official being present.

    The attack on the Hungarian-born billionaire echoes those of Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, who has accused Soros of interfering in Hungarian politics….

  191. blf says

    Civil rights pioneer Viola Desmond is first woman on Canadian currency:

    New $10 notes are ‘beautiful’, says sister of Viola Desmond, whose act of defiance in a theater helped spark Canada’s civil rights movement

    A black woman who refused to leave the whites-only section of a Canadian movie theatre in 1946 — nearly a decade before Rosa Parks’s act of defiance — has been honoured on the country’s newest $10 bill.

    Civil rights pioneer Viola Desmond was selected from the more than 26,000 submissions that rolled in after the Bank of Canada announced plans to put a Canadian woman on the country’s circulating currency for the first time.

    Born in 1914, Desmond rose to prominence as an entrepreneur, selling her own line of hair and skin products at a time when few local beauty schools accepted black students.

    […]

    The incident that would propel her into Canada’s history books took place in 1946 after her car broke down in New Glasgow, some 100 miles north-east of Halifax, while on a business trip.

    Looking to kill time while her car was being repaired, she stopped by a local movie theatre. It was a segregated space — floor seats were for white people while black people were relegated to the balcony.

    Desmond, who was shortsighted, tried to buy a floor seat but was refused. So she bought a ticket for the balcony, where seats were one-cent cheaper, and sat in the floor area anyway.

    She remained there until police arrived. Desmond was dragged out of the theatre and arrested, ultimately spending 12 hours in jail.

    The price difference between the floor and balcony seats would later come back to haunt her; Desmond was charged with tax evasion over the single penny. Despite the fact that the theatre had refused to sell her the more expensive floor seat, she was convicted and ordered to pay fines amounting to C$26.

    […]

    In 2010, more than six decades after she was arrested, Nova Scotia apologised to Desmond and pardoned her — a posthumous pardon signed into law by Mayann Francis, the province’s first African Nova Scotian lieutenant-governor. “Here I am, 64 years later — a black woman giving freedom to another black woman.” […]

    There is an image of the new C$10 note — which is technically interesting as well, being in an (unusual?) vertical orientation — at the link.

  192. blf says

    Here in France, as mentioned in previous comments, the le penazis will be holding their conference this weekend (in Lille). “Hours before the conference opened it was revealed Donald Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon would be speaking on the first day of the event”, Bannon to address Front National as French far-right leaders seek unity (Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    […]
    The surprise guest speaker Bannon was announced on Twitter by the FN deputy president Louis Aliot. He wrote: Welcome to Steve Bannon who will address the FN tomorrow at our congress and will meet ML {Le Pen}. The people are waking up and taking their destiny in hand.

    Shortly afterwards Aliot tweeted a photograph of him shaking with Bannon, who he wrote represents rejection of the establishment of which one of the worst symbols is the EU in Brussels. He has understood like Trump and Matteo Salvini {the head of the Italian League} the wish of the people to control their own destiny.
    […]

  193. says

    “Hours before the conference opened it was revealed Donald Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon would be speaking on the first day of the event”

    Is Bannon funding his European tour himself? If not, who’s paying for it?

  194. says

    Josh Marshall – “Remember: Michael Cohen Is a Very Rich Dude.”

    A few things:

    Cohen’s claim that he got the money from a home equity loan is likely true, but what it does is square with the news reports that discussed how he was annoyed when his reimbursement (from Trump, Trump Org., campaign, inauguration?) didn’t come through quickly enough.

    It would be amazing if Cohen’s initial payment ultimately came from laundered Russian or Ukrainian oligarch money.

    It would also be amazing if the reason Cohen’s bank flagged the transfer was that his finances were already under investigation.

    Cohen is super sketchy.

  195. says

    “In a personal letter, Trump invited Putin to the 2013 Miss Universe pageant”:

    Donald Trump was so eager to have Vladi­mir Putin attend the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow that he wrote a personal letter to the Russian president inviting him to the event, according to multiple people familiar with the document.

    At the bottom of the typed letter, Trump scrawled a postscript adding that he looked forward to seeing “beautiful” women during his trip.

    Trump’s letter to Putin, which was described by people with knowledge of its contents, shows how interested he was in attracting the personal attention of the Russian president. The real estate magnate, who owned the Miss Universe pageant, wrote the note at a time when he was looking to expand his brand to Russia.

    The letter, the first known attempt at direct outreach by Trump to Putin, has been turned over to investigators probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign. It is unclear whether Trump’s missive was ever delivered to the Russian president — and if so, whether Putin responded.

    Investigators for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III have asked witnesses questions about the Miss Universe pageant and Trump’s interest in having Putin attend the event, according to people familiar with the inquiry.

    Mueller’s team also has examined Trump’s relationship with the Agalarovs, which extended beyond the 2013 pageant….

  196. says

    Meanwhile…why can’t this pompous, hypocritical fool just go away?

    [Bannon] said that the reason it was so important to get populist [sic] nationalist governments in place was to prepare for a coming great-powers clash with an axis of ancient Turkish, Persian and Chinese civilizations. “Elites can’t fight that fight,” he said. “Because people have to buy into it.”

    He is also increasingly interested in motivating people to fight media conglomerates like Facebook that monetize their data. And he has become fascinated with crypto currencies and how they can help populist movements, the subject of a speech he gave in Zurich this week.

    (He says he’s paying for his luxury European tour. I don’t believe him. And with what funds is he planning to take over European media outlets?)

  197. says

    “Trump administration studies seeking the death penalty for drug dealers”:

    The Trump administration is studying new policy that could allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty for drug dealers, according to people with knowledge of the discussions, a sign that the White House wants to make a strong statement* in addressing the opioid crisis.

    President Trump last week suggested executing drug dealers as a way to make a dent in opioid addiction. Opioids killed nearly 64,000 people in 2016, and the crisis is straining local health and emergency services.

    People familiar with the discussions said that the president’s Domestic Policy Council and the Department of Justice are studying potential policy changes and that a final announcement could come within weeks. The White House has said one approach it might take is to make trafficking large quantities of fentanyl — a powerful synthetic opioid — a capital crime because even small amounts of the drug can be fatal. White House officials also are studying tougher noncapital penalties for large-scale dealers.

    Trump said last week that the administration would soon roll out unspecified “strong” policies on opioids. White House officials said Trump has privately expressed interest in Singapore’s policy of executing drug dealers.

    Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, is leading much of the work on opioids for the White House. Singaporean representatives have briefed senior White House officials on their country’s drug policies, which include treatment and education, but also the death penalty, and they provided a PowerPoint presentation on that country’s laws….

    * Really, WaPo? You’re adopting their language?

  198. says

    blf @270, Bannon speaking at events in Europe reminds me of the anti-gay USians who infected Europe, Russia and Africa. Extremists that begin to lose their audience in the U.S. take their show on the road. When Bannon is relegated to events in Malaysia, we may start to see the end of this “nationalist,” rightwing, disruptive, anti-immigrant asshat.

  199. says

    Shorter Bannon: You’re being screwed by globalist elites, central banks, and social media companies. Here, have some hateful words about immigrants and some self-promoting claims about how I’m totally working class and at the same time love being an elite and talking about my elite bona fides (but I hate the elites! hate ’em!). Also, applaud yourselves for a while – they hate and fear you not because you’re misogynists, racists, xenophobes, and homophobes but because of your decency and simple common humanity. Crypto-currency is going to lead you to freedom, as…Hayek predicted. And in conclusion: our nationalism isn’t at all racist, but do wear your racism as a badge of honor. Thank you.

  200. says

    SC @274:

    It is unclear whether Trump’s missive was ever delivered to the Russian president

    One commentator on MSNBC noted that, since Trump has never used email, he would often have his staff scan his hand-written notes and then send the scan via email. The scan-and-send practice would account for Mueller’s having access to the letter even if it had been sent to Putin.

    In this case, Trump added a hand-written note to a letter. (Typed on a typewriter? Produced on a computer and then printed out?)

  201. says

    SC @277:

    He says he’s paying for his luxury European tour. I don’t believe him. And with what funds is he planning to take over European media outlets?

    The Mercers? Good question.

  202. says

    Follow-up to comment 239.

    What pastor Jeffress said a decade ago:

    Christians need to remember that the kingdom of God is not going to come riding in on Air Force One. The danger in all of this discussion is that Christians sometimes are willing to sacrifice the temporal for the eternal, that in order to get their candidate elected, to enact those laws that they feel are crucial, somehow we fool ourselves into thinking we are going to bring about the kingdom of God here on Earth. We are not going to do that. I’m not willing to trade people’s eternal destiny for some temporary change in the law.

    [guffaws] Jeffress did a 180 in order to support Trump. See comment 239.

    From Michael Gerson of the Washington Post:

    The level of cynicism here is startling. Some Christian leaders are surrendering the idea that character matters in public life in direct exchange for political benefits to Christians themselves. It is a political maneuver indistinguishable from those performed by business or union lobbyists every day. Only seedier. You scratch my back, I’ll wink at dehumanization and Stormy Daniels. The gag reflex is entirely gone.

    From Michael Steele, former Republican National Committee chairman:

    ust shut the hell up and don’t ever preach to me about anything ever again. I don’t want to hear it…. After telling me how to live my life, who to love, what to believe, what not to believe, what to do and what not to do and now you sit back and the prostitutes don’t matter? The grabbing the you-know-what doesn’t matter? The outright behavior and lies don’t matter? Just shut up.

  203. says

    Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said some more stupid stuff:

    When solar facilities are built on public land, people can’t hunt or pursue other recreation there, he said, and wind turbines “probably chop up as many as 750,000 birds a year.”

    Zinke was trying to make the point that wind turbines have a more deleterious effect on the environment than does the extraction of oil, coal and gas. He did admit that “certainly oil and gas and coal have a consequence on carbon,” but his main point was that leasing or selling public lands to extractive industries was preferable to setting up wind turbines. Nonsense.

    From USA Today a couple of years ago:

    Wind turbines kill between 214,000 and 368,000 birds annually — a small fraction compared with the estimated 6.8 million fatalities from collisions with cell and radio towers and the 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion deaths from cats, according to the peer-reviewed study by two federal scientists and the environmental consulting firm West Inc.

    Commenters made the point that the windows of many high-rise buildings kill more birds. There are solutions for that problem.

  204. says

    “FBI Seizing Property Bought By Corrupt Malayasian PM. Goldman Sachs Involved, Knew Money Tainted.” This Daily Kos article includes some of the coverage from Sydney, Australia, where Alex Turnbull’s involvement and whistle-blowing is discussed. This article focuses on the part that Goldman Sachs played in setting up the fund used by the Malaysian PM, and on Goldman Sachs’ willful ignorance when it was obvious that fraud and corruption were rampant.

    Rachel Maddow’s coverage, which includes some lovely video of the yacht that was seized by the FBI.

  205. says

    Further to #280 – I still can’t get over

    a. how little substance there is to any of their proposals, and how unconnected their proposals are to their expressed sources of grievance (you can’t even really call them proposals – there’s no real plan of collective action other than campaigns of hate, and in practice their policies serve to further enrich and empower elites); I mean, I know the connections between the actual problems and the people they scapegoat aren’t real, but it seems like they’re just too lazy at this point to even try to lie about it convincingly.

    b. how Bannon, like Trump and several other so-called populists, simply cannot resist talking about how much of an elite he supposedly is and seeking to participate (and be seen participating) in elite activities. He knows it goes against all of his other rhetoric, but he just can’t help himself. He even did it when he was campaigning for Roy Moore in Alabama.

  206. says

    “Victims, gunman identified in Yountville veterans home shooting tragedy”:

    A day-long standoff in Yountville has ended in tragedy. Officials with the Pathway Home program at the veterans facility identified the three female victims that were killed after an armed gunman entered a staff meeting, taking hostages.

    Yountville officials confirm that the three female hostages that died in the standoff are Executive Director Christine Loeber, a therapist Dr. Jen Golick, and Dr. Jennifer Gonzales, a psychologist with the San Francisco Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System….

    Dr. Gonzales was a friend of Susan Hennessey’s.

    Also, the girl shot and killed in school in AL this week was Courtlin Arrington, who was set to graduate this year and was going to college to become a nurse. Initial reports called the shooting accidental, but the shooter has now been charged with manslaughter.

  207. says

    “To Help Identify Migrants Who Died Along Border, Art Class Reconstructs Their Faces”:

    Every year, hundreds of migrants traveling across the Mexican border die while attempting to cross into the United States. The conditions of Arizona, Texas and New Mexico, and the risky nature of the journey, can cause the individuals to die by heat stroke, hyperthermia due to exposure to the elements and dehydration.

    Their bodies are not easy to identify. Though medical examiners try DNA and dental comparisons, many migrants go unidentified.

    Recently, however, students at the New York Academy of Art helped a Tuscon, Arizona, medical examiner’s office take a step toward naming some of the nameless by reconstructing the faces of eight migrants.

    As Patricia Leigh Brown reports for The New York Times, the workshop, taught by forensic artist Joe Mullins of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, is part of a pilot program recreating faces from the remains of the individuals who were discovered in the desert….

  208. says

    What would we do without the ACLU?

    […] The ACLU, which filed the class action lawsuit at the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of California on Friday, claims the practice by government agencies of separating young children from their families violates the Process Clause and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The lawsuit represents a proposed class of “hundreds of individuals whose minor children have already been taken from them.”

    The class-action suit broadens an existing ACLU lawsuit that attempted to reunite a woman with her 7-year-old daughter after they were detained separately by U.S. officials. The pair had sought asylum in the United States after fleeing violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the ACLU. The young girl frantically screamed that she “did not want to leave her mommy” as they were being separated, yet the government claims she would not be safe with her mother, according to the lawsuit. […]

    Link

  209. says

    This article is accompanied by a photo of Trump, sitting next to French President Emmanuel Macron, enjoying the Bastille Day Military Parade. You can tell that Trump can barely contain his delight.

    President Donald Trump is a step closer to getting his fervently wished for military parade, which is expected to cost taxpayers between $10 and $30 million. But it’s likely to be missing some of the oversized hardware that thrilled him at a military procession in Paris last year.

    Less than a month after the Trump administration unveiled a fiscal 2019 budget that included $3 trillion in cuts, US defense officials late Friday released plans for the parade which has been scheduled for November 11, Veteran’s Day. […]

    There will be no tanks at America’s military parade, however — likely a disappointment to Trump who was enamored by the heavy armor that rumbled through the streets of Paris last July when he watched France’s Bastille Day celebration. Officials said they are worried about the possible damage that non-wheeled vehicles could infict upon Washington streets.

    The president might be consoled by plans during the event for an aerial display by military planes, including older aircraft. There are also plans for soldiers to wear period uniforms dating back to the Revolutionary War. But it is still unknown whether this will appease the president who has apparently been eager to show off the military dominance of America, which is by far the largest defense spender in the world. […]

    Link

    Trump is on record as wanting a parade bigger and better than Macron’s.

  210. says

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions sounded like a right-wing extremist when he talked to students at a conservative gathering today.

    […] “In truth, this is a question of raw power — of who gets to decide the policy questions facing America: our elected representatives, our elected president or unelected lifetime-appointed federal judges,” Sessions told the Federalist Society’s 2018 National Student Symposium at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington. […]

    “We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will soon send a clear message to the lower courts that injunctions ought to be limited to the parties of the case,” he said.

    Link

  211. says

    Trump threatened the EU again today:

    The European Union, wonderful countries who treat the U.S. very badly on trade, are complaining about the tariffs on Steel & Aluminum. If they drop their horrific barriers & tariffs on U.S. products going in, we will likewise drop ours. Big Deficit. If not, we Tax Cars etc. FAIR!

  212. says

    WIRED link

    Trump may make it impossible for spouses of workers on H-1B visas to get a job:

    […] the Obama administration allowed spouses of certain H-1B holders to obtain work permits. […] in December, the Trump administration indicated it may eliminate the work permits for spouses. […]

    The Trump administration says it plans to soon end the program allowing […] more than 100,000 [spouses] to work in the US. Called H-4 EAD, or employment authorization document, the permit is available to the spouses of workers on H-1B visas who are in line for permanent US residency. […]

    The Obama administration started the program in 2015 partly due to a backlog in the green card process. Because of a per-country cap, people from populous countries such as India and China must wait years before gaining residency. That also meant spouses had been waiting years before they were eligible to work.

    When it established the rule, US Citizenship and Immigration Services said the program would benefit the American economy. Last fall, USCIS indicated it was considering revoking the rule as part of President Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” executive order. […]

    The Trump administration initially suggested it wanted to end the H-4 EAD program by February, but recently delayed that plan, saying it needed to conduct a new economic analysis. It now hopes to issue a proposal in June. Peerally thinks the administration has already made up its mind. He predicts that unless a lawsuit bogs down the process, the program “will be gone, basically in the next one or two years.” […]

    In the last few months, holders of the work permit—a vast majority of whom are women, many with advanced degrees—have ramped up a social-media campaign. […] At a recent town hall meeting with US Representative Ro Khanna, (D-California), a staffer asked the several hundred in the crowd how many were affected by the H-4 visa issue. At least two-thirds of the auditorium stood up.

    “Most of us are spouses who have not been able to work for so long,” Sivarajan says. “And not all of us know how to advocate for ourselves.” […]

  213. blf says

    Follow-up to @270, Trump’s ex-adviser Bannon tells French far-right: History is on our side:

    Former top Trump aide Steve Bannon told the French far right on Saturday that history is on our side as he addressed a National Front party conference that is seeking to bounce back from crushing electoral setbacks.

    The tide of history is with us and it will compel us to victory after victory, after victory, Bannon, once a powerful figure in the Trump administration and former head of Breitbart News, told the FN conference in its northern stronghold of Lille.

    […]

    Bannon said he was in Europe as an observer and to learn. And what I learned is you’re part of a worldwide movement that is bigger than France, bigger than Italy, bigger than Hungary, bigger than all of it.

    Speaking in Paris before Bannon’s address, former party head Jean-Marie Le Pen, from whom Marine took over the leadership in 2011, dubbed the American’s visit “paradoxical” and “not exactly the definition of ‘de-demonisation’” his daughter has sought to give the party. [Stuck-clock syndrome, perhaps?]

    Marine Le Pen is running unopposed for a third term and her address Sunday will see her try to turn a page on the anti-Semitic, openly racist party of her former paratrooper father [Jean-Marie Le Pen …].

    The article goes on to discuss the nepotism in the le penazis — part of the reason I call the FNutters the “le penazis”…

  214. says

    SC @300, unbelievable. Every time we think Trump can”t be any worse, somebody lets him out of the White House to say whatever is on his mind and this is what we get. He’s like a parody of himself.

    And we still have the talks with North Korea to look forward to.

    He sounds like a drunk guy who has early Alzheimer’s Disease … but Trump doesn’t drink.

    Can you imagine Justin Trudeau watching Trump spout that nonsense about Canada?

  215. says

    Update to #257 – There are reports that Magnitsky sanctions are to be imposed. I can only read the first couple of paragraphs of the Telegraph article:

    Russian officials involved in corruption and human rights abuse are to be targeted with a tough new sanctions regime co-ordinated with the US and Canada, the Telegraph can disclose.

    Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, and Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, have agreed that Britain will introduce a UK version of the so-called “Magnitsky Act” under which 49 Russian nationals are named in an official US list of “gross violators of human rights”, whose crimes include extrajudicial killings and torture….

    The article talks about visa bans but evidently not asset freezes.

  216. says

    Maggie Haberman reported yesterday that Trump had met with Emmet Flood about Flood possibly joining his legal team. Flood apparently is among those who had (wisely) turned Trump down in the past, and it looks like he has again. Trump is now lying about Haberman’s report being false, and also calling her a “Hillary flunky” who “knows nothing about me and is not given access.” To which Haberman, speaking for the world, replied “Lol.”

  217. says

    Guardian oped – “Softly-softly isn’t working. Time to play hard with wealthy Russians living in Britain”:

    …This bad relationship should make sanctioning Putin’s government easier for our politicians to stomach, but in other ways, May’s job now is significantly harder than Blair’s was in 2006. For one thing, we no longer have a reliable ally in Washington. Donald Trump can be counted on to troll Sadiq Khan whenever there’s a terrorist attack in London but he is yet to bother tweeting about Sergei Skripal, his daughter, Yulia, DS Nick Bailey or the 18 other people affected by the nerve agent used last Sunday.

    Trump’s indifference extends to his own country’s Russia problem. Last year, Congress asked the White House to study which Kremlin insiders could be targeted by sanctions, so it copied out a list from Forbes magazine. It would, in short, be foolish to rely on Washington for help against Putin. If US assistance is not forthcoming, the government needs to work with our European allies.* It is a shame that so much of our diplomatic capital has been squandered on Brexit, instead of being held back for something important.

    But acting alone is still possible. South-east England is a favourite playground of rich Russians. They keep their houses here, their children here, they float their companies on our stock exchange and they don’t make a secret of it. You’re not rich in Russia without being friends with Putin – in fact, there is a remarkably close correlation between the two groups – so if May’s government wants to send a message to the Russian president, it could cancel the visas of the members of his inner circle and, perhaps, try out the potency of its new “unexplained wealth orders”, by freezing their property. Then it should dismantle the mechanisms with which they launder their money.

    …Putin’s people care most about getting rich and the only way to change their mind is to cost them money.

    * I think this should be done in concert with European allies regardless of whether US support is forthcoming.

  218. says

    “Trump Lawyers Are Considering A Challenge To ’60 Minutes’ Airing Of A Stormy Daniels Interview”:

    Lawyers associated with President Donald Trump are considering legal action to stop “60 Minutes” from airing an interview with Stephanie Clifford, the adult film performer and director who goes by Stormy Daniels, BuzzFeed News has learned.

    “We understand from well placed sources they are preparing to file for a legal injunction to prevent it from airing,” a person informed of the preparations told BuzzFeed News on Saturday evening.

    It was not immediately clear what legal argument the lawyers would be making to support the considered litigation, and Trump and his legal team often have threatened litigation without following through on those threats in the past….

  219. says

    SC @313, Spending hours covering the Trump/Saccone Festival of Stupidity and Lies is indeed a mistake. Especially since one of the effects of that is giving Trump an even bigger megaphone to repeat his favorite lies. He got every single fact wrong when he was whining about trade imbalances. Every fact for every country … all of them were wrong.

    Your link in comment 300 provides backup for debunking some of the lies.

  220. KG says

    The article [about UK responses to the Skripal poisoning] talks about visa bans but evidently not asset freezes. – SC@310

    Good grief no. Asset freezes would impinge on the sacred rights of the financial sector.

  221. says

    Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s defense of Trump’s rhetoric at the Saccone-support rally:

    “Chuck, you know I’ve been with the President in ad campaigns,” Mnuchin said. “You know he likes to put names on people. He did that through the entire presidential election, including all the Republicans that he beat. So these are campaign rally issues.”

    “So you’re saying that’s acceptable behavior for the rest of the administration too, or it’s just unique to him?” Todd asked.

    “Again, Chuck, this is something that is at a campaign rally,” Mnuchin said. “The President likes making funny names.”

    Later, Todd asked Mnuchin what parents should tell their kids about the President using vulgarities to refer to individuals.

    “Again, I think you should be focused on what the policies are,” Mnuchin said. “He’s using those vulgarities in the context of a campaign rally.”

    “And obviously there were a lot of funny moments in that rally,” he said.

    “Yeah, they were hilarious,” Todd responded before concluding the interview.

    Link

  222. says

    Trump’s plan to intimidate voters:

    […] Trump would be able to dispatch Secret Service agents to polling places nationwide during a federal election, a vast expansion of executive authority, if a provision in a Homeland Security reauthorization bill remains intact.

    That would be the effect of a rider that House Republicans snuck into a bill that they passed.

    From a bipartisan coalition of 19 secretaries of state and elections commissioners:

    There is no discernible need for federal secret service agents to intrude, at the direction of the president, who may also be a candidate in that election, into thousands of citadels where democracy is enshrined….

    This is an alarming proposal which raises the possibility that armed federal agents will be patrolling neighborhood precincts and vote centers..

    Boston Globe link

  223. says

    During his speech in Pennsylvania, Trump claimed that he got “52% of the votes of women.” That’s not true.

    If you look at the votes of women overall, Hillary Clinton got 54% of the votes of women, and Trump got 42% of the votes of women.

    If you break the votes of women down by race:

    White women: Clinton 43%, Trump 53%
    Black women: Clinton 94%, Trump 4%
    Latinx women: Clinton 68%, Trump 26%

    Maybe, as Joy Reid said, Trump only counts the votes of white women.

  224. blf says

    Republican candidate’s North Korea experience may not be all he claims:

    Rick Saccone, standing in Pennsylvania’s special congressional election, says he negotiated regularly with communist officials — others remember it differently
    […]
    A television advertisement features moody shots of a missile launch and goose-stepping North Korean soldiers — and Saccone’s claim that his career as a diplomat in North Korea makes him uniquely placed to deal with the looming crisis over Pyongyang’s nuclear programme.

    Saccone’s campaign website says that he spent one year on a diplomatic mission in North Korea and describes him as the only United States citizen living in North Korea that negotiated with the North Korean regime on a daily basis.

    But the four-term state legislator may be overstating his role.

    According to former colleagues, although Saccone is one of the few Americans to have dealt with North Korean officials, he was not a diplomat, and was not engaged in traditional diplomacy.

    “From what I have heard, he has tended to embellish his role,” said David Lambertson, a former US diplomat who held the same position as Saccone in North Korea.

    Both were US representatives for the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), a nuclear power plant project in North Korea that was designed to give Pyongyang civilian nuclear power without the ability to make weapons. KEDO was the result of Bill Clinton-era negotiations that began in 1994 and slowly fell apart before formally ending in 2006.

    The agreement required at least one American to be on site, as well as representatives from Japan and South Korea. The building site where Saccone spent his time was in Kumho, about 270 kilometres (165 miles) from Pyongyang.

    […]

    According to Lambertson, substantial negotiations over KEDO would take place in Pyongyang, with US staff flown in from New York. Lambertson attended these meetings but described his presence at negotiations as “more of an observer”.

    “Saccone’s experience would have been exactly the same: he was not negotiating highly sensitive matters with the North Koreans by any means,” he added.

    Kim Joong-keun, the South Korean representative on the project who worked with Saccone, agreed that the candidate’s account was “inaccurate”.

    “Frankly speaking, he didn’t meet any important North Koreans,” Kim said. “There was a lot more contact between North Koreans and South Koreans.

    “Of all the Americans I worked with, I would rank Saccone at the bottom.”

    […]

    Although Saccone has said that he lived in North Korea for one year, Lambertson and Kim said his position was shared among two or three people, with each rotating in for a maximum period of about six weeks.

    […]

  225. blf says

    A follow-up to @323, The Grauniad points out the proposed new name for the le penazis — Rassemblement National (National Rally) — is very similar to names used in the past by other French nazis:

    […]
    For a political leader [sic] whose primary objective in recent years has been to soften FN’s image and shed its antisemitic, jack-boot image, the proposed name had unfortunate echoes of the Rassemblement National Populaire (RNP), an extreme-right collaborationist group set up by Marcel Déat, a neo-Socialist, during the German occupation of France between 1941 and 1944.

    […]

    As well as its Vichy connections, the name was also used for a party created by Jean-Louis Tixier-Vignancour, an extreme-right lawyer who stood in the 1965 presidential election. Tixier-Vignancour’s election campaign was run by Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine’s father and the FN leader from 1972 to 2011.
    […]

    The current le penazi führer, Marine Le Pen, claims she thought and consulted long and hard on the name (uncontrolled snickering…).

  226. says

    Predictably atrocious:

    “U.S. moving to repair relations with Turkey, endangering ties with Kurdish allies”:

    In an effort to repair tattered relations, the Trump administration has told Turkey it will move to rein in Kurdish fighters who have been the backbone of the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State in Syria, according to U.S. and Turkish officials.

    The first step and “the crux of the matter,” a senior Turkish official said, is to withdraw the Kurds from the Syrian town of Manbij and relocate them east of the Euphrates River. The town, about 25 miles from Turkey’s border, has come to symbolize the fevered competition for territory and influence in northern Syria among the United States, Turkey, and other regional powers.

    The American pledge, if carried out, would satisfy a long-standing demand by the Turkish government and fulfill a promise first made by the Obama administration to keep the Kurdish forces east of the Euphrates. The Kurds helped to take Manbij from the Islamic State in 2016 and have been there since.

    Turkey has shown no tolerance for any development that strengthens Kurdish political and military groups in Syria, especially along the lengthy border Turkey shares with Syria….

    Officials gave no timeline for moving the Kurds from Manbij to positions east of the Euphrates, 20 miles away, and did not indicate how the relocation would be accomplished….

    This tentative warming of relations, however, is already coming at a cost to the United States. Saying they feel let down by Washington, U.S.-allied Kurdish forces said last week they are withdrawing from the front lines of the fight against the Islamic State in southern Syria to join the battle against Turkey in the north.

    U.S. commanders on the ground in and around Manbij have previously warned that several hundred American troops deployed there would defend the Kurds against any attack by Turkish troops, now massed a few miles away. Turkish officials were outraged last month when U.S. commanders touring the area with American journalists praised the Kurds and vowed to fight alongside them if there were a Turkish attack.

    “It’s tricky for us, because we’ve spent a lot of years with those guys,” the U.S. official said of the Kurds. “Especially in terms of our [American] fighters, we’ve built profoundly deep personal relationships, and nobody wants to see those erode.”

    But senior U.S. military officials and diplomats, who describe the partnership with Turkey as paramount, appear to have concluded that they can no longer keep deflecting the complaints of a critical ally….

    Why they didn’t talk to any Kurds for this report, I have no idea.

  227. says

    More threats from Trump:

    […] Trump told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal if Germany, France and the United Kingdom do not meet his demands […]

    The president told Netanyahu during their White House meeting last week that the three nations have only proposed “cosmetic changes” that don’t go far enough, […]

    Trump set May 12 as the deadline for reaching an agreement on how to change the Iran deal with the three European countries. If no consensus is reached by that date, Trump is expected to withdraw the U.S. from the deal.

    In the past two months, the four nations have held two talks. Another round of talks is expected to begin on Thursday in Berlin. […]

    Link

  228. says

    A lie from Trump:

    Rasmussen and others have my approval ratings at around 50%, which is higher than Obama, and yet the political pundits love saying my approval ratings are “somewhat low.” They know they are lying when they say it. Turn off the show – FAKE NEWS!

    Nope. Rasmussen has his approval rating at 44% (and recently lower). You don’t round 44% up to 50% … unless you are a liar. Other polls show Trump’s approval rating in the high 30s or low 40s. Rasmussen is always an outlier, tending to show Republicans in a favorable light.

    No poll shows Trump’s approval rating to be “around 50%.

    I don’t actually get how Trump can maintain an approval rating of 38 or 39%.

  229. says

    “Qataris opted not to give info on Kushner, secret meetings to Mueller”:

    Qatari officials gathered evidence of what they claim is illicit influence by the United Arab Emirates on Jared Kushner and other Trump associates, including details of secret meetings, but decided not to give the information to Special Counsel Robert Mueller for fear of harming relations with the Trump administration, say three sources familiar with the Qatari discussions.

    Lebanese-American businessman George Nader and Republican donor Elliott Broidy, who participated in the meetings, have both been the focus of news reports in recent days about their connections to the UAE and Trump associates.

    NBC News previously reported that Qatari officials weighed speaking to Mueller during a visit to Washington earlier this year, and has now learned the information the officials wanted to share included details about Nader and Broidy working with the UAE to turn the Trump administration against Qatar, according to three people familiar with the discussions….

  230. says

    SC @333, Betsy DeVos has an uncanny ability to smile brightly while failing to answer basic questions about school systems. Also, when presented with actual data, she goes right ahead and asserts (or repeats) her misapprehensions.

    That was an amazing performance. Her makeup is perfect. Her smile is perfect. The lighting is flattering. Every thing that comes out of her mouth is either wrong or a meaningless platitude.

  231. says

    Steve Benen looked at what Trump said about DACA at the rally in Pennsylvania:

    Democrats want to stop DACA. DACA is their issue. But I’m willing to go along and get it done. […]

    I offered a deal that was so good you can’t refuse, right, like the mob pictures. I will give you a deal that is so good, you can’t refuse. I made a deal. I gave a deal so good, they could not refused. And I did it because I thought they were going to refuse. And they did. And they are getting killed now by the DACA recipients. They are getting killed.

    Steve analyzed Trump’s bizarre behavior:

    […] I’m less interested in the fact that Trump is lying about DACA and more interested in why Trump is lying about DACA.

    The facts are unambiguous: after assuring Dreamers that he wouldn’t punish them, Trump ended the DACA program. Scrambling to protect these young immigrants, Democrats offered the president six different bipartisan agreements, each of which Trump either rejected or walked away from.

    Meanwhile, the president pushed a non-negotiable far-right alternative: he’d extend protections to Dreamers if Congress gave him $25 billion for a border wall and dramatic cuts to legal immigration. Democrats, independents, immigration advocates, and quite a few Senate Republicans said this was simply a bridge too far. In a GOP-led Senate, Trump plan generated just 39 votes.

    It was, to borrow the president’s phrasing, an offer that was quite easy to refuse.

    But Trump still won’t budge. Even after Democrats agreed to the money for the border wall, Trump said it wasn’t enough – he needed cuts to legal immigration, too. […]

    So why is the president lying so brazenly? Because Trump realizes that the politics of this debate aren’t going his way. As we discussed a month ago, this president has a great many flaws, but he tends to understand what will affect his own personal standing. Trump realizes, in this case, that if he starts deporting hundreds of thousands of Dreamers, the threat of a political backlash is real. […]

    And so, in order to protect himself politically, Trump has to lie – brazenly and repeatedly – as he did again over the weekend.

    Unfortunately, I see signs that Trump’s repetitious lies are working … at least in some circles. I don’t think DACA recipients or immigration experts buy that bucket of swill, but most of the rightwing media outlets I checked are repeating Trump’s lies.

  232. says

    Follow-up to comments 144, 188, and 203.

    Somewhat good news from the trial in Kansas where the ACLU is debunking the claims of Kobach’s “voter fraud” excuses for laws that disenfranchise voters. Cross examination by ACLU lawyers proved to be particularly embarrassing to Kobach’s “expert” witnesses.

    A prominent voter fraud alarmist who had prepared a report defending Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship law admitted in testimony Friday that he did not investigate the circumstances surrounding the registrations of a handful of non-citizens that were central to his allegations.

    The witness, Hans von Spakovsky, relied on a spreadsheet provided to him by the state. The spreadsheet showed that in Kansas’ second most populous county, there were only 38 alleged cases of non-citizens registering or attempting to register to vote in the last two decades. That spreadsheet, which also showed that only five of those non-citizens cast votes, had already come under extreme scrutiny earlier in the trial.

    “I did not personally examine each registration form,” von Spakovsky said, under cross-examination from Dale Ho, the ACLU’s lead attorney in the case.

    The ACLU’s expert witness, Lorraine Minnite, had done so. And much of her testimony was spent picking apart the spreadsheet for mischaracterizing what appeared to be administrative error or confusion by the non-citizen, when one looked at their registration form. (One of the alleged non-citizens, for instance, did not check the box confirming they were a citizen).

    […] [Dale Ho] pressed von Spakovsky on the evidence he was using to support his allegations, and pointed out when von Spakovsky omitted relevant context. When van Spakovsky attempted to dodge Ho’s questions, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson intervened to get him to answer. […]

    Early in his questioning, Ho brought up von Spakovsky’s allegation in his report that “ineligible voters could make the difference in a close election.”

    Von Spakovsky admitted that he couldn’t cite a single case where non-citizen voting changed the outcome of an election.

    Ho then turned to a Florida NBC News affiliate’s story von Spakovsky cited in his report. The story alleged that 100 people who had claimed to have been non-citizens on jury forms were registered to vote in Collier County. Follow up investigations clarified that 35 of those registrants were in fact U.S.citizens. […]

    Ho moved on from the report itself to claims that von Spakovsky — and Kobach — have made in op-eds, that Somali nationals voting illegally tipped a state legislative race in Missouri.

    A state court ruling found that there was no fraud in the race.

    Von Spakovsky said he “was not aware of that” when he wrote his op-ed. Asked if he attempted to retract the claim, von Spakovsky said he didn’t recall when he found out. […]

    For his efforts, von Spakovsky was paid $5,000 by the state of Kansas.

    Link

  233. says

    Donald Junior’s corruption is showing … again.

    Donald Trump Jr. has a previously undisclosed business relationship with a longtime hunting buddy who helped raise millions of dollars for his father’s 2016 presidential campaign and has had special access to top government officials since the election, records obtained by The Associated Press show.

    Link

    The “hunting buddy” is Gentry Beach, a guy who was involved in getting sanctions on Venezuela dropped (human rights violations). Beach has also been involved in persecution of political opponents, shady resort deals in Argentina, etc. Don Junior and Beach formed a company together, Future Venture LLC.

    […] Last February, just as Trump Sr. was settling into office, Beach and an Iraqi-American businessman met with top officials at the National Security Council to present their plan for lightening U.S. sanctions in Venezuela in exchange for opening business opportunities for U.S. companies, according to a former U.S. official with direct knowledge of the proposal.

    Career foreign policy experts were instructed to take the meetings, first reported last April by the website Mic.com, at the direction of the West Wing because Beach and the businessman were friends of Trump Jr., the official said. […]

    Seven months after the Venezuela meetings, Beach attended a private lunch in Dallas between Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Republican donors, including businessmen with petroleum interests, according to a copy of Zinke’s schedule. […]

    More info at the link, including the fact that Beach’s father, Gary Beach, was convicted of federal bankruptcy fraud. Don Junior invested in an oil well deal through Gentry Beach.

  234. says

    The Trump administration is working harder to throw scientists out their advisory roles in the EPA. Jeff Sessions and Scott Pruitt are both involved in this anti-science move:

    The Department of Justice filed a motion on Friday seeking to quash a challenge to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s new rule barring scientists who have received agency grants from sitting on EPA scientific advisory panels.

    By prohibiting scientists who have received EPA grants, Pruitt’s goal is to fill the advisory boards with industry-friendly members.

    The Justice Department lawyers, working on behalf of the EPA, argued that “the power to appoint committee members is the administrator’s alone and is non-reviewable by the courts.” […]

    The motion refers to Pruitt’s directive as a “preference” for selecting committee members who do not receive EPA grant money. But after Pruitt issued the directive on October 31, 2017, at least six grant recipients who were members of the EPA Science Advisory Board were removed from the panel.

    “EPA appointed new advisory committee members to replace members removed pursuant to the directive. Many of the replacement appointees work directly for industries regulated by EPA or receive financial support from such industries,” Earthjustice wrote in a December 21, 2017 complaint filed on behalf of several medical and health groups.

    After Pruitt changed the criteria for choosing advisory committee members, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) opened an investigation into the decision to ban scientists from the committee who have received EPA grants. […]

    By singling out academic members of the scientific community who are receiving EPA grants, Pruitt’s directive “lays bare its real function: to stack the deck against scientific integrity,” […]

    Think Progress link

  235. says

    Frustrated in Court, Trump Administration Seeks to Change the Federal Balance of Power

    […] The Justice Department wants to permanently remove the ability of federal judges to issue nationwide injunctions—orders that stop a policy from taking effect until the court has officially ruled on its legality. Instead, a Hawaiian judge overseeing a travel-ban case brought by the state of Hawaii would be able to block the ban only in that state [for example]. The implications, if the Supreme Court agrees with the Justice Department, will be enormous for the future of judicial review and the federal government’s balance of power. […]

    Much more at the link.

  236. says

    From Joe Scarborough:

    There is nothing American about what Donald Trump did in Pennsylvania when he tries to turn an entire audience, whether it’s against Katy Tur or whether it’s against Chuck Todd.

    When you’re in rallies like that and you whip your supporters into a frenzy, there are real life consequences to that. Threats follow, often death threats.

  237. says

    Some more stuff Trump said at the rally in Pennsylvania:

    And Conor Lamb. Lamb the Sham, right? Lamb the Sham! He is trying to act like a Republican. I don’t know, he looks like a nice guy. I hear he is nice looking. I think I am better looking than him. I do, I do. He is slightly younger than me. Slightly.

    Personally I like Rick Saccone. I think he is handsome.

    Go look at some photos of Saccone. Look at some photos of Conor Lamb. You don’t have to look at photos of Trump, you’ve seen enough.

    Wonkette link

  238. says

    Wow – “The Asset: How A Player In The Trump-Russia Scandal Led A Double Life As An American Spy”:

    In the sprawling Trump-Russia investigation, one name constantly pops up: Felix Sater. In story after story, Sater is described as Donald Trump’s former business partner, a convicted stock swindler who was born in the Soviet Union, worked in Russia, tried to win Trump a deal in Moscow, and even helped broker a Ukrainian peace plan that Vladimir Putin would have loved.

    Basically, he’s portrayed as something just short of a Russian spy.

    Effectively, he has been a spy — but for the United States. For the first time, BuzzFeed News has verified the surprising sweep of Sater’s undercover work and many of his specific exploits. He worked as an asset for the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency (or DIA) and tracked Osama bin Laden. Then he worked for more than a decade for the FBI, providing intel on everything from the mob to North Korea’s drive for nuclear weapons. He still operates as a source for the bureau, according to two current FBI agents.

    He did some of this work to fend off prison time after he admitted guilt in a stock scam — but he had started helping the US government before then, and he continued to report back to the FBI after the agreement ended. Today, as he is being questioned about Trump’s business deals and ties to Russia, he has built relationships with at least six members of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, some going back more than 10 years.

    Now BuzzFeed News has obtained the statement Sater gave under oath to House Intelligence Committee investigators at his attorney’s office in December, interviewed him extensively, and corroborated many details of his spy-thriller account through legal documents, emails, letters, and interviews with 10 current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials familiar with his undercover work.

    To this day, Sater continues to cooperate with the FBI and Justice Department, he said in his statement to the House Intelligence Committee. He wouldn’t disclose additional details, except to say that he works on “international matters.” Two US officials confirmed Sater continues to be a reliable asset.

    Sater has already been summoned by congressional investigators, and he is expected to speak to the Senate Intelligence Committee in April. He also has been questioned by Mueller’s team, several of whom he knows from his past undercover work. It’s almost certain that Sater has sensitive information about Trump’s business dealings, but he won’t say what he was asked or what information he provided. The special counsel’s office declined to comment for this story.

    The glare of the Trump-Russia investigation, he said, has taken its toll: His marriage of 29 years collapsed, his reputation is mud among his business friends, and he has recently been the subject of anti-Semitic messages and phone calls from neo-Nazi groups.

    He hopes that by revealing the extent of his cooperation, he will be able to change how the public — and his own family — thinks about him. Meanwhile, he presses on without the support of Trump, whom Sater said he considered a good friend.

    Trump has denied knowing the man who had an office three doors down from his own and who helped his company explore deals across the globe….

  239. says

    This is…what the fuck?!

    He actually fantasizes about committing war crimes against Californians:

    A red counter-insurgency avoids the problem of a decentralized insurgency and insecure logistical lines. In the case of California, whose secessionist antics are approaching the point where President Trump could legitimately employ his power to crush insurrections, the tactical problem is relatively simple. For example, San Francisco is a hotbed of treason, but the populace is largely unarmed and is trapped in a confined area. You put a brigade on securing the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, then put a brigade on the San Francisco Peninsula to cut off the I-280 and US-101 corridors. Next you go to the Crystal Springs Dam and cut off the water. Then you watch and wait as the tech hipsters run out of artisanal sushi rice and kombucha.

  240. says

    Key passages from May’s speech, per the G:

    Mr Speaker, this morning I chaired a meeting of the National Security Council in which we considered the information so far available.

    As is normal, the Council was updated on the assessment and intelligence picture, as well as the state of the investigation.

    It is now clear that Mr Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia.

    This is part of a group of nerve agents known as ‘Novichok’.

    Based on the positive identification of this chemical agent by world-leading experts at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down; our knowledge that Russia has previously produced this agent and would still be capable of doing so; Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations; and our assessment that Russia views some defectors as legitimate targets for assassinations; the Government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

    Mr Speaker, there are therefore only two plausible explanations for what happened in Salisbury on the 4 March.

    Either this was a direct act by the Russian State against our country.

    Or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.

    This afternoon my Rt Hon Friend the Foreign Secretary has summoned the Russian Ambassador to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and asked him to explain which of these two possibilities it is – and therefore to account for how this Russian-produced nerve agent could have been deployed in Salisbury against Mr Skripal and his daughter.

    My Rt Hon Friend has stated to the Ambassador that the Russian Federation must immediately provide full and complete disclosure of the Novichok programme to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

    And he has requested the Russian Government’s response by the end of tomorrow.

    Mr Speaker, this action has happened against a backdrop of a well-established pattern of Russian State aggression.

    Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea was the first time since the Second World War that one sovereign nation has forcibly taken territory from another in Europe.

    Russia has fomented conflict in the Donbas, repeatedly violated the national airspace of several European countries, and mounted a sustained campaign of cyber espionage and disruption. This has included meddling in elections, and hacking the Danish Ministry of Defence and the Bundestag, among many others.

    During his recent State of the Union address, President Putin showed video graphics of missile launches, flight trajectories and explosions, including the modelling of attacks on the United States with a series of warheads impacting in Florida.

    While the extra-judicial killing of terrorists and dissidents outside Russia were given legal sanction by the Russian Parliament in 2006.

    And of course Russia used radiological substances in its barbaric assault on Mr Litvenenko. We saw promises to assist the investigation then, but they resulted in denial and obfuscation – and the stifling of due process and the rule of law …

    Mr Speaker, on Wednesday we will consider in detail the response from the Russian State.

    Should there be no credible response, we will conclude that this action amounts to an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the United Kingdom.

    And I will come back to this House and set out the full range of measures that we will take in response.

    Mr Speaker, this attempted murder using a weapons-grade nerve agent in a British town was not just a crime against the Skripals.It was an indiscriminate and reckless act against the United Kingdom, putting the lives of innocent civilians at risk.

    And we will not tolerate such a brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil.

  241. says

    “2 deadly package explosions in Austin appear connected, police say”:

    A pair of package explosions that left two people dead in Austin, Texas, over the past 10 days share similarities and authorities suspect they are connected, police said.

    The latest incident occurred Monday morning; the other on March 2. In both instances, a resident retrieved a package that blew up when it was opened.

    Both packages were not delivered via any mail services and both homes are those of African Americans. A 17-year-old boy died Monday and a woman was transported with non-life-threatening injuries. Another male died from his injuries in the March 2 explosion.

    Police were responding to another “reported explosion” Monday afternoon, but have not yet said whether it is connected to this investigation. Manley strongly urged residents in a tweet to be on the lookout for suspicious packages and to alert authorities immediately….

  242. says

    Peter Navarro advises Trump on trade issues. This is how Navarro describes his job as advisor:

    This is the president’s vision. My function, really, as an economist is to try to provide the underlying analytics that confirm his intuition. And his intuition is always right in these matters.

    Um, yeah, that’s not how it is supposed to work. Advisors are supposed to be experts in their field, experts who provide advise that is based on research, analytics and good judgement. Nope, advisors are not supposed to work backwards from Hair Furor’s intuition to come up with a bonkers, twisted justification for actions that have no foundation in reality.

    From the Washington Post:

    White House aides provided Trump with data on the effects of Bush-era steel tariffs in 2002, which did not have the intended effect. The president considered the advice, but said that he was skeptical of economists and their data.

    Okay, so maybe Navarro has a point. Why provide Hair Furor with data that he will just blithely dismiss?

    From the Associated Press:

    The president has long considered himself his own best consultant, saying during the presidential campaign: “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

    Trump has told confidants recently that he wants to be less reliant on his staff, believing they often give bad advice, and that he plans to follow his own instincts, which he credits with his stunning election, according to two people who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about private conversations.

  243. says

    Oh, FFS.

    In a marked departure from the previous administration, conservatives at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are putting an emphasis on abstinence to reduce teen pregnancy rates.

    So far, the administration has encouraged organizations applying for Title X federal family planning funds to include in their programs a “meaningful emphasis” on “the benefits of avoiding sex” when communicating with adolescents and to use programs that don’t “normalize sexual risk behaviors.”

    The Trump administration also plans to release its first report early this summer as part of a $10 million research project looking at ways to improve sex education programs, with a focus on the impact of “sexual delay.”

    http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/377304-abstinence-only-education-making-a-comeback-under-trump

  244. says

    Too early to call this contest, but there’s promising news out of western Pennsylvania:

    Democrat Conor Lamb heads into the final day of the special congressional election[…] with the lead, according to a new public poll released Monday.

    Monmouth University used three different turnout models ahead of Tuesday’s special election —and Lamb has the advantage in all three of them. […]

    Lamb leads Saccone, 51 percent to 45 percent, the poll shows — using a turnout model that mirrors a Democratic surge that’s appeared in other special elections throughout the last year. Three percent of likely voters are undecided, and 1 percent would support another candidate.

    A Monmouth poll released in mid-February, using the same model, found Saccone with a slight edge, 49 percent to 46 percent.

    The poll suggests Lamb can win even if that Democratic surge falls short, however. In a more restrictive turnout model — designed to mirror a lower-turnout electorate that typically votes in midterm elections — Lamb has a slim, 2-point lead, 49 percent to 47 percent. A higher-turnout scenario, more similar to a presidential election, produces a 7-point Lamb lead, 51 percent to 44 percent.

    “When added to a potential Democratic surge that has been building for weeks, Lamb appears to have picked off enough Republican-leaning voters to take a lead going into this contest’s final weekend,” said Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray. “It would mark an extraordinary swing from Trump’s nearly 20-point victory here in 2016 if he could hold on to win.” […]

    Link

  245. says

    Here’s May’s full statement.

    Includes this passage:

    Furthermore our commitment to collective defence and security through NATO remains as strong as ever in the face of Russian behaviour.

    Indeed our armed forces have a leading role in NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence with British troops leading a multinational battlegroup in Estonia.

    We have led the way in securing tough sanctions against the Russian economy.

    And we have at all stages worked closely with our allies and we will continue to do so.

    We must now stand ready to take much more extensive measures.

  246. says

    Further to #356: “The White House responds to UK conclusion that Moscow was behind the poisoning of a former Russian spy with ‘The attack was reckless, indiscriminate and irresponsible’. Questionable choice of words for attempted murder.”

    I’ll say!

  247. says

    Think caution is warranted before creating a narrative that the US isn’t working with the UK on the Russian chemical weapons attack in London. I’d assume lots of talks and an effort to unite a common US, EU, and UK position. Assume that will happen.”

    If it does happen, it will be because Trump was basically forced into it. Look at how they’ve had to be pressured to offer any public response at all, and when they do it’s…#358.

  248. says

    I think this is a sign that a lot Republicans think Conor Lamb is going to win in Pennsylvania:

    The chairman of Pennsylvania’s Republican Party said Monday the special election in which Democrat Conor Lamb is running neck-and-neck with Republican Rick Saccone is in a “Democrat district,” […]

    “The other reason it’s so tight is, you have to remember, this is a Democrat district, notwithstanding the fact that the president won this by 20 points,” Pennsylvania GOP chairman Val DiGiorgio told Fox News on Monday. “And Conor Lamb is running at least trying to portray himself as a moderate who goes along with the Republicans on conservative issues. But when you drill down, you realize that’s not really true.” […]

    Link

    Why would you say it is a “Democrat district”? I get it, you are preparing excuses ahead of time. You are getting ready to explain away a loss, or even to explain away a very close race.

    No, the 18th congressional district is not a “Democrat district.” Trump won there by 19 percentage points in 2016. Republican Tim Murphy represented the 18th district in Congress. Murphy had done so since 2003. (Murphy resigned in October, hence the special election.)

    Cook Political Report’s 2017 Partisan Voting Index gave Pennsylvania’s 18th district a rating of R+11, meaning it performed 11 percentage points more Republican than the nation as a whole over the last two presidential elections.

  249. says

    From Representative Bobby Scott, a Democrat from Virginia:

    The administration has misplaced its focus on arming school personnel and dismantling civil rights protections for students instead of offering meaningful, evidence-based solutions to gun violence prevention. Our students and families do not need a federal commission to study violence prevention, when real solutions that curb access to high-powered firearms and evidence-based violence prevention strategies are readily available.

  250. says

    So the House Intel Republicans have decided to shut down their Russia investigation, on the very day the WH is refusing to support the British conclusion that the Kremlin is implicated in the nerve-toxin attack. Evidently they’ve already drawn up a report, which they haven’t shown to the Democrats on the committee, and which doesn’t even accept the IC conclusion or the evidence from the Mueller indictment.

    Manu Raju: “NEWS: GOP on House Intel reach conclusion: No evidence of collusion between Trump camp and Russia. GOP draft report will also contend that evidence does NOT support intel community assessment that PUTIN tried to help Trump win. Ds yet to see report.”

    (Raju follows up with: “MORE: Burr just told me he’s seen ‘NO’ evidence of collusion yet and no evidence yet to substantiate 2017 IC assessment that Putin sought to aid Trump. Asked about efforts by Russians to coordinate w Trump camp, he said: ‘It’s collusion on part of the Russians not the Trump camp’.” Burr chairs the Senate committee, so I hope Raju mistyped and meant Conaway, but at this rate nothing would surprise me.)

    So disgraceful it’s hard to fathom.

  251. says

    Luke Harding: “#Trump’s silence over #Skripal poisoning extraordinary. Nerve agent attack in a UK city, three victims in hospital, hundreds affected. The only possible conclusion: the president of the United States is terrified of offending #Putin.”

  252. says

    “Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general, says Robert Mueller is ‘not an unguided missile'”:

    Despite unrelenting criticism from the White House on the course of the investigation into Russia’s election interference, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein Monday offered unqualified support for special counsel Robert Mueller.

    “The special counsel is not an unguided missile,” Rosenstein said in an exclusive interview with USA TODAY. “I don’t believe there is any justification at this point for terminating the special counsel.”

    Rosenstein’s remarks are among the first to address Mueller’s status since it was disclosed more than a month ago that President Trump sought to have the special counsel dismissed last summer….

    He dismissed the near-constant and pointed criticism aimed at the Justice Department from the White House and from an ultra-conservative Tea Party Patriots group. The group has run an ugly ad campaign, describing Rosenstein as “a weak careerist” and suggesting that he tender his own resignation.

    “I believe much of the criticism will fall by the wayside when people reflect on this era and the Department of Justice,” said Rosenstein, who did not refer to Trump directly. “I’m very confident that when the history of this era is written, it will reflect that the department was operated with integrity.”…

  253. says

    Rachel Maddow:

    “As of *this afternoon* Dems on Intel didn’t know investigation was ending, or that there weren’t more interviews ahead.

    Now, magically, the investigation is not only done, but its conclusions are cooked & ready to go!

    Subtlety not a strong suit here.”

  254. says

    @RepAdamSchiff: ‘By ending its oversight role in the only authorized investigation in the House, the Majority has placed the interests of protecting the President over protecting the country, and history will judge its actions harshly’.”

  255. says

    Laura Rozen is suggesting that the contacts with the UK government have been largely with/through Tillerson.

    Further to #368 – “Secy Tillerson also told reporters he’s become extremely concerned about Russia. And after a year spent attempting to work together, the U.S. didn’t get very far, ‘Instead what we’ve seen is a pivot on their part to be more aggressive’.”

  256. says

    “Sec. Tillerson: We agree that those responsible – both those who committed the crime & those who ordered it – must face appropriately serious consequences. We stand in solidarity w/ our allies in the UK & will continue to coordinate closely our responses.”

  257. says

    SC @363, we could see that coming, but it is still shocking. Nunes is a traitor.

    The Republicans on that committee are inefficient and slow, but somehow they put together a 150-page report? They must have been working on it for months.

    With this off his plate, I suppose Nunes is free to focus on investigating the FBI for supposed bias against Trump.

    Comment 365: The most galling part of that one-page summary, (apart from the fact that it exists at this point in time), is the finding of no collusion on the part of the Trump campaign. How can they know that? They didn’t even call Erik Prince back to testify after they found out that he lied about the Seychelles meeting in which the Trump campaign tried to set up a back channel with the Russians. They didn’t subpoena records. They didn’t force Bannon or Lewandowski to answer questions and to provide documents and/or electronic records.

    Comment 370: I really wish Republicans would stop equating Hair Furor with God.

    Comment 377: Just like the Republican 150-page report, Trump’s tweet sounds pre-cooked and ready to go:

    THE HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE HAS, AFTER A 14 MONTH LONG IN-DEPTH INVESTIGATION, FOUND NO EVIDENCE OF COLLUSION OR COORDINATION BETWEEN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN AND RUSSIA TO INFLUENCE THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.

    Trump is not that good with comma use, nor with the logical use of subordinate clauses. He didn’t compose that tweet on his own.

  258. KG says

    SC@347 etc.

    Two points to note from the UK:
    1) This morning was the first time I have heard or seen any BBC reporter comment on the complete lack of any response by Trump (until yesterday, from Tillerson either), or the possible effect of Brexit on European responses (Putin was of course delighted by the Brexit vote, and his social media bots and sockpuppets may well have had an influence on the result). The American interviewee on Radio 4’s flagship news programme, Today, was one Kurt Volker, former US ambassador to NATO and currently special representative for Ukraine, but primarily a private sector very rich person – not the American ambassador or anyone else from the embassy, or from the administration. He gave a typical Trump apologia.
    2) Jeremy Corbyn’s response to May’s speech has been criticised for being too emolient in tone towards Russia (with which I agree), and for pointing out that the Conservative Party has benefitted recently from some £800,000 donations from Russian oligarchs and their associates (which I think he was quite right to do). Such largesse from rich foreigners would be dubious even if it were not the case that no-one stays rich long in Russia without supporting Putin. Absent clear evidence to the contrary, these donations must be assumed to come from Putin cronies.

  259. says

    “ICE spokesman in SF resigns and slams Trump administration officials”:

    James Schwab, a spokesman for the San Francisco Division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has resigned, citing what he says are falsehoods being spread by members of the Trump administration including Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    “I just couldn’t bear the burden — continuing on as a representative of the agency and charged with upholding integrity, knowing that information was false,” he told CNN on Monday.

    Schwab cited Acting Director Tom Homan and Attorney General Jeff Sessions as being the purveyors of misleading and inaccurate information, following Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s controversial decision to warn the community of an upcoming ICE raid.

    The Oakland mayor said in response to the former spokesman speaking out, “I commend Mr. Schwab for speaking the truth while under intense pressure to lie. Our democracy depends on public servants who act with integrity and hold transparency in the highest regard.”…

  260. says

    Trump has confirmed.

    I have little doubt Tillerson’s firing was triggered by #s 368 and 374-76 above. British officials must be apoplectic. Cable news people are talking about how he never really clicked with Trump, etc. Alas.

    Pompeo is being replaced at CIA by Gina Haspel. Here’s her description from WP:

    …Haspel ran a “black site” CIA prison located in Thailand in 2002.[6][7] The site was codenamed “Cat’s Eye” and held suspected al Qaeda members Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah for a time. The Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture specifies that during their detention at the site they were waterboarded and interrogated using no longer authorized methods.[8][9] Declassified CIA cables specify that Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in a month, was sleep deprived, kept in a “large box”, had his head slammed against a wall and he lost his left eye. Zubaydah was deemed, by the CIA interrogators, to not be in possession of any useful intelligence (Interrogation of Abu Zubaydah).[10]

    Haspel later was the chief of staff to Jose Rodriguez, who headed the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center. In his memoir, Rodriguez wrote that Haspel had “drafted a cable” in 2005 ordering the destruction of dozens of videotapes made at the black site in Thailand.[9]

    In 2013, John Brennan, then the director of Central Intelligence, named Haspel as acting Deputy Director of the National Clandestine Service, which carries out covert operations around the globe.[11] However, she was denied the position permanently due to criticism about her involvement in the Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program.

    June 7, 2017 the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights called on the Public Prosecutor General of Germany to issue an arrest warrant against Haspel over claims she oversaw the torture of terrorism suspects. The complaint against her is centered on the case of Saudi national Abu Zubaydah.

  261. says

    This is another possibility – WaPo is saying Tillerson had been informed on Friday that he was being fired. Matthew Miller: “No wonder Tillerson felt free to speak clearly yesterday about Russia and its involvement in the spy poisoning in London. He was already fired.”

    I see no reason necessarily to believe this timeline, but it’s possible. Andrea Mitchell spoke with a top Tillerson aide yesterday and heard nothing of it. The firing resulting from Tillerson’s statements about Russia yesterday seems more likely. Either way, it points to the same thing.

  262. says

    Josh Lederman (AP): “We got off the plane with Tillerson less than four hours ago. There was zero indication on flight home that this was imminent.”

    The story that Tillerson had been fired prior to his comments last night about Russia isn’t holding up well. Also, it appears he was fired while in flight, returning from a trip to Africa. His father died last week.

  263. says

    “Trump’s Personal Assistant Is Fired”:

    President Donald Trump’s personal assistant, John McEntee, was escorted out of the White House on Monday, two senior administration officials said. The cause of the firing was an unspecified security issue, said a third White House official with knowledge of the situation.

    White House press secretary Sarah Sanders declined to comment saying, “We don’t comment on personnel issues.” Mr. McEntee didn’t return a call seeking comment.

    Mr. McEntee was one of the longest-serving aides to Mr. Trump, dating back to the earliest days of the campaign…

    Mr. McEntee was removed from the White House grounds on Monday afternoon without being allowed to collect his belongings, a White House official said. He left without his jacket, a second White House official said.

    It wasn’t clear exactly why Mr. McEntee was fired on Monday. He indicated to colleagues that it was an issue in his background.

  264. says

    Trump is saying he’s going to talk to May today (!), and that he would take their Russia attribution “as fact,” but they’re still getting their facts together, and when they have their facts straight they’ll respond re Russia or…whoever it was. Insane.

  265. says

    KG @ #381:

    1) This morning was the first time I have heard or seen any BBC reporter comment on the complete lack of any response by Trump (until yesterday, from Tillerson either), or the possible effect of Brexit on European responses (Putin was of course delighted by the Brexit vote, and his social media bots and sockpuppets may well have had an influence on the result). The American interviewee on Radio 4’s flagship news programme, Today, was one Kurt Volker, former US ambassador to NATO and currently special representative for Ukraine, but primarily a private sector very rich person – not the American ambassador or anyone else from the embassy, or from the administration. He gave a typical Trump apologia.

    That is so disturbing.

    2) Jeremy Corbyn’s response to May’s speech has been criticised for being too emolient in tone towards Russia (with which I agree), and for pointing out that the Conservative Party has benefitted recently from some £800,000 donations from Russian oligarchs and their associates (which I think he was quite right to do). Such largesse from rich foreigners would be dubious even if it were not the case that no-one stays rich long in Russia without supporting Putin. Absent clear evidence to the contrary, these donations must be assumed to come from Putin cronies.

    I also agree with the first criticism. With regard to the second, I agree that he’s right to do it, for the reason you describe. But I think the timing was terrible, particularly after May had (for once) spoken effectively and when his own speech didn’t take a firm stance.

  266. says

    A State Department official is saying Tillerson learned he was fired from Trump’s tweet this morning. So Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ story about his being fired on Friday looks dubiously fabricated.

  267. says

    Today is the PA-18 special election. Voting has already started.

    Today is also the release of Isikoff and Corn’s Russian Roulette (see #176 above). Rachel Maddow interviewed them last night.

    Part 1
    Part 2

    (These might be in reverse order.)

  268. says

    New: Trump’s personal aide Johnny McEntee was fired because he is currently under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for serious financial crimes, a source familiar with his firing tells @kaitlancollins”

  269. says

    “Russian exile Nikolai Glushkov found dead at his London home”:

    A Russian exile who was close friends with the late oligarch Boris Berezovsky has been found dead in his London home, according to friends.

    Nikolai Glushkov was discovered by his family and friends late on Monday night, aged 68. The cause of death is not yet clear. One of his friends, the newspaper editor Damian Kudryavtsev, posted the news on his Facebook page.

    In the 1990s, Glushkov worked for the state airline Aeroflot and Berezovsky’s LogoVAZ car company. In 1999, as Berezovsky fell out with Putin and fled to the UK, Glushkov was charged with money laundering and fraud. He spent five years in jail and was freed in 2004.

    In recent years, Glushkov had lived in London, where he received political asylum. In 2011, he gave evidence at the court case brought by Berezovsky against his fellow oligarch Roman Abramovich, who remained on good terms with the Kremlin.

    In 2017, during a trial in absentia in Russia, Glushkov was sentenced to eight years in prison for stealing $123m from the company.

  270. says

    After firing Tillerson, Trump said that he is getting close to having the cabinet that he wants. That’s scary.

    Trump also said that he and Pompeo are on the same wavelength or that they think alike. That’s scary.

    Pompeo has been identified as a guy who “was far too partisan to be a good fit at the Central Intelligence Agency, and who had an unfortunate habit of politicizing intelligence.”

    From Steve Benen:

    […] is it fair to see the developments as good news? Probably not. Tillerson was an ineffective and misguided secretary of state, but he at least tried to have a moderating influence over the president.

    Pompeo, a former far-right congressman from Kansas, probably won’t. Indeed, The New Republic had an item several months ago making the compelling case that Pompeo would be “a disaster” at the State Department.

    A longtime Koch ally, Pompeo has described the War on Terror as a clash between Christianity and Islam and defended the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program. A foreign policy hawk, Pompeo has also advocated that Ed Snowden receive the death penalty. He weaves together two of the worst and most pervasive threads of the Trump administration: its coziness with corporate interests (he received more Koch money than any other Congressman in 2010) and its xenophobia.

    It’s true that Pompeo could bring more credibility to the State Department: unlike Tillerson, he has the president’s ear, and he is unlikely to lose it. But any proximity would come at an enormous cost: even grading on a Trumpian curve, Pompeo would be an enormously destructive force – far more hawkish than Tillerson, the risk for global conflict is too high for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

    The confirmation hearings are bound to be interesting.

  271. says

    Representative Adam Schiff’s description of the report that the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee plan to release:

    […] seek to rebut the GOP conclusions and detail all the investigative avenues that House Republicans declined to take — the interviews that they didn’t conduct, and the leads that they didn’t try to chase down and verify. […]

    There’s no way for them [Republicans] to reach the conclusions that they want to start with unless they ignore or mischaracterize what we’ve been able to learn.

    We will be presenting evidence of collusion, some of which is in the public domain and apparent to everyone willing to see it, and other facts that have not yet come to public light. I fully expect that the majority will omit many of these facts in its report and mischaracterize others. […]

    [The Republican report represents] another capitulation to the executive branch.

    [The Democrats’ report will] be on a similar page to the analysis by the Senate [Intelligence Committee].” […]

    House Republicans are likely to be out on a political lark.

    Quoted text is excerpted from an interview with the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent.

  272. Oggie. says

    Lynna @ 408:

    The confirmation hearings are bound to be interesting.

    No, the confirmation hearings will consist of: How can we help you to help us to kiss Trump’s arse? How can we cast aspersions on Democrats while making ourselves look good for the base in the upcoming primaries?

  273. says

    On July 24, 2016, Mike Pompeo jumped on Trump’s “we love Wikileaks” bandwagon:

    Need further proof that the fix was in from Pres. Obama on down? BUSTED: 19,252 Emails from DNC Leaked by Wikileaks

    https://twitter.com/DafnaLinzer/status/973562443795521537

    From Steve Piper:

    Let us not forget that Pompeo recently met with the heads of Russian intelligence agencies in secret meeting. These Russians are sanctioned and should not be in US. Perhaps he was getting his marching orders on how to help undermine the USA

  274. says

    Trained personnel carrying a gun in a school:

    A school resource officer accidentally fired his gun inside a middle school in Alexandria, Virginia, Tuesday morning, police say. No one was hurt.

    The officer was inside his office at George Washington Middle School in the Del Ray neighborhood when he accidentally discharged his service weapon about 9:10 a.m., according to Alexandria police.

    The officer, a five-year veteran of the Alexandria Police Department, checked the area for any potential injuries and found that everyone was OK. He notified his supervisor and school staff, and classes continued as normal, police say. […]

    Link

  275. says

    Nunes went on Fox News to justify ending the House Intelligence Committee investigation. Among other things, he said:

    If you look at the one example of which was I think bad judgement which is where they met with a Russian lawyer, but it had to do with Russian adoptions.

  276. says

    Just because it’s so good, repeating SC’s tweet o’ the day:

    Tillerson: Russia obviously poisoned the guy.
    Trump: You’re fired.
    Press: You fired him for saying that?
    Trump: No, I fired him on Friday.
    Tillerson aide: He wasn’t fired on Friday, it came as a complete surprise.
    Trump: You’re fired too.

  277. says

    Tillerson Blindsided By Trump Tweet In Another Epic White House Shitshow, an article by Caitlin MacNeal.

    […] If Tillerson was given a heads up about his ouster, he did not hear it from the President directly. The Washington Post reported that “Trump last Friday asked Tillerson to step aside, and the embattled diplomat cut short a trip to Africa on Monday to return to Washington.” Post reporter Ashley Parker later tweeted that a White House official told Tillerson on Friday that his days were numbered. […]

    The State Department issued a statement Tuesday morning indicating that Tillerson was caught off guard by the announcement. Under Secretary of State Steve Goldstein said that Tillerson did not speak with Trump and that he did not know the reasoning behind his firing. Goldstein was later fired over the statement that contradicted the official White House narrative. […]

    Speaking to reporters outside the White House Tuesday morning, Trump also suggested that Tillerson had little heads up about his ouster.

    “I really didn’t discuss it very much with him honestly. I made that decision by myself,” Trump told reporters.

    The announcement that Tillerson would be replaced came after Tillerson broke with the White House in blaming Russia for the poisoning of a former British spy, but it’s not clear whether Trump made the decision to fire Tillerson before then.

    What strikes me is that Trump fired Tillerson while he was out of the country. This reminds me of Trump firing Comey while Comey was on a trip to California. Trump does NOT speak to the person being fired personally. There is no direct contact. Trump is a coward.

    No administration personnel at that high level should be fired while they are traveling to conduct the business of the USA. Very messy. Cowardly. Stupid.

  278. says

    Inspired by the students from Parkland, Florida, other teenagers are getting involved in politics. This includes teens in Pennsylvania who are supporting Democrat Conor Lamb in today’s special election.

    Maria O’Matz got to skip school Tuesday. […] It’s O’Matz’s first time volunteering for a political campaign, though she has worked with a group called Girl Gov lobbying for comprehensive sex ed in Pennsylvania’s schools, among other issues, in the past. […]

    “They are incredible,” O’Matz said of the young Parkland activists. “I cannot even put into words how much I am inspired by and respect them [and] all the work they’re doing…[…]

    asked if she wished Lamb would support banning assault rifles [she added] “I do appreciate the steps that he is willing to take besides the ban on assault rifles… He’s a relatively moderate guy. He’s willing to work with Republicans, and I think we need that.” […]

    “In Mt. Lebanon, a lot of people just think, ‘Oh it’s a safe community; nothing happens here,’” O’Matz said. But, she noted, that’s what people in Parkland thought, too. […]

    Jordan Farrell, 18, a high school senior, also took the day off school to canvas for Lamb, and she, like O’Matz, said she does think it’s important to take steps toward sensible gun reform. But, she told ThinkProgress, she believes Lamb’s stance is right for the district. […]

    Link
    Babies taking baby steps. A start.

    It’s nice to see photos of Lamb posing with young people with all kinds of different ethnic backgrounds. All hail the diverse selfies being posted on social media. It’s a relief after seeing all the images of Saccone brandishing his bigotry in front of like-minded white people.

  279. says

    Josh Marshall: “Tillerson looks like someone who took two big hits to the gut with a bat and then was given 30 seconds to pull himself together before going in front of the cameras to announce his defenestration.”

    He did. I think he thanked everyone but Trump, including the American people. Warned Russia.

    As I’ve said in the past regarding Sessions – whatever I think of these people, and regardless of the fact that they made the choice to involve themselves with Trump, the disgusting way Trump treats them brings me no joy. It’s gleefully malicious and cruel, and I hate that children are seeing someone in power act this way.

  280. says

    And what a slap in the face to the African countries Tillerson visited. They graciously hosted him and his skeletal delegation, then he canceled some events and left early, only to be fired on his way back to the US.

  281. says

    Follow-up to comments 144, 188, 203, 206 and 344.

    More racist bull pucky emerges in the court trial in which Kobach is involved:

    This afternoon, as ACLU attorney Dale Ho continued his scrutiny of the research methods employed by Jesse Richman in a report alleging statistically significant rates of non-citizen voter registration in Kansas, Ho turned attention to Richman’s methodology in one of his analyses.

    Specifically, Ho asked Richman about his effort to code respondents who had “foreign”-sounding names for weighting purposes in his survey. Ho played video from Richman’s previous deposition in which Richman said that the process was “very subjective” and that he was sure he made mistakes.

    After going over some of the names Richman coded as foreign — two respondents with the last name Lopez were coded as foreign, and three Lopezes were not — Ho asked Richman how he would code the name “Carlos Murguia.” Richman said he’d probably code the name as “foreign.” Ho pointed out that Murguia is a federal judge in the same courthouse in which the trial is taking place. Richman admitted he wasn’t aware of that. […]

    Link

  282. says

    All the best people:

    Documents show that Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) Director Scott Angelle has spent more than 98 hours meeting with oil and gas lobbyists and executives since he began the role last May. In contrast, during this same time he only spent 1.75 hours with NGOs.

    According to an analysis of Angelle’s calendar released by watchdog group Documented, the director has met with companies that have previously contributed more than $88 thousand to his failed 2012 and 2016 campaigns for elected office. […]

    But the list of meetings goes well beyond previous campaign contributors. It includes other big names such as BP, ExxonMobil, Shell, and Halliburton, as well as the American Petroleum Institute.

    The news comes days after an investigation by the New York Times showed how the Trump administration, with help from Angelle, has been working to roll back Obama-era safety measures implemented following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

    In January, the administration announced plans to open up 90 percent of the nation’s offshore areas to oil and gas leasing. At the time, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke touted the proposal as offering “the largest number of lease sales ever proposed.” […]